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Pneumatic Stage Lift


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I am working on a project for next summer. I am producing the show FAME and am looking to build a pneumatic lift above stage level to raise and lower actors to and from a raised part of the set. Please let me know if you have any good resources as to where to start. I'm completely new to this.


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I have to admit that I'm very concerned about the idea of putting a person near the business end of a pneumatic ram.


It's EXTREMELY difficult to control the speed of a pneumatic ram - when unloaded they move extremely fast.


This means that if your actor steps off the platform before it reaches the endstops, the platform will immediately 'snap' into the endstop position, a situation which is fairly likely to cause injury.


It also means that an emergency stop system for pneumatic rams is almost impossible - and anything the moves in the proximity of a person MUST have a suitable e-stop mechanism.


I've seen exactly one system that provided position and speed control of pneumatic rams, and it was very experimental, fairly unreliable and built by a postgrad at Cambridge University, UK.


You've admitted that you don't know where to start with this project - the only advice that I can give is not to do it yourself, but to get an expert in.


You're in New York state, which means that there are many fairly local companies that do this sort of thing.

Get in touch with them for specifics - they may well have something that will do what you want already.


There are four main technologies used for this kind of stage automation:

1) Hydraulic rams

2) Electric 'pistons' of various kinds, usually based around flexible steel components that lock together.

3) Hoists - hung from the grid.

4) Rack and pinion systems.



The reason why stage automation is expensive is because it is very hard to do safely.

Any system (even an apparently simple one) still needs a complex control and emergency stop system with various buffers and sensors to reduce the likelihood of injury.

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