How the Scissor Lift Mechanism Works
How the Scissor Lift Mechanism Works

How the Scissor Lift Mechanism Works

Scissor lifts are well-tried-and-tested types of lifting platforms that have been used in practice for many years. Today, we have automated solutions that are widely used in various fields. Lifting mechanisms are used in many environments, with examples including the safe lifting of goods onto shelving constructions, moving heavy loads into the cargo compartments of aircraft and ships, during building repairs and the movement of the construction personnel and service teams. They can also be used to automate home equipment if you must work with heavy objects often.

You can easily buy or even build your own scissor lift that fits perfectly into your work or living space. Let’s figure out how this equipment is arranged, what it can be used for, and other related topics!

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What is a Scissor Lift?

A simple scissor lift mechanism is based on a system of levers, hinges, and linear drives. The drives can be based on hydraulic cylinders, mechanical transmissions, or electric motors (learn more specifics). One of the lift supports is attached to the base on a hinge, while the other can move freely, pushing or sliding the whole structure. The levers essentially move like conventional scissors. A tabletop can then be securely placed on top of the structure, where the load is then placed.

Scissor lift


The key scissor lift components include:

  • A platform.
  • Scissor legs.
  • A drive responsible for lifting the platform.
  • A secured base that holds the scissor lift.
  • A power supply.

In an emergency, the movement of the lift can be stopped, and the levers folded down using the drive disconnect button or pressure release lever. One of the key advantages is the precise levelling of the platform. In addition, such lifts can be so compact that they can be placed under a work office or home desk!

How Does a Scissor Lift Work?

Scissor lifting uses the principle of vertical lifting with a lever system. The stretching of the cruciform mechanism is carried out by pressure on the outer parts of the cross supports mounted at one of its ends. This action leads to lengthening of the mechanism and, accordingly, lifting of the platform. The movement is achieved hydraulically, pneumatically, mechanically, or manually. In some cases, such a mechanism doesn’t even require the use of force, and to return to its original position, it is enough to stop the initial action. The principle of operation of a scissor lift depends on the source of the driving force, but the design and the resulting movement are identical.

A scissor lifts using in the construction industry


In the case of an electric scissor lift, everything is simpler. The stem extends and the platform begins to move. If the operator wants to lower the lift, he/she cuts off the power or relieves pressure to start the reverse process. Hydraulic and pneumatic work in the same way when hydraulic fluid or compressed air begins to enter the cylinders. Scissor lifts are perfect for safely lifting heavy equipment and efficiently performing at heights. However, the rate of ascent/descent depends on the drive power and the weight of the platform.

Types & Purposes of Lifts

In terms of transportation principles, a scissor lift platform can be one of the following types:

  1. Stationary: it is distinguished by its high reliability and lifting height. Such devices are also called a scissor lift worktable.
  2. Mobile: it has wheels but cannot move independently. For the safety of the scissor lift mechanics, travel is only permitted when folded.
  3. Self-propelled: with an internal combustion engine it is only allowed to be used in open spaces.

The lifts can also differ in terms of power supply types:

  1. Hydraulic lifts: these lifts are easy to operate and ideal for projects where speed is not a priority.
  2. Pneumatic lifts: they don’t emit by-products or vapours, making them more environmentally friendly and safe. These are great options for indoor use.
  3. Electrical: with a quiet drive, they don’t emit harmful substances and are less bulky. Great for confined spaces.
  4. Diesel: very powerful, with a lot of mass and platform, but noisy and emitting a lot of smoke. Required for use outdoors or in areas with good ventilation.
A scissor lifts using in the car services


Applications of Scissor Lifts

Typically, a scissor elevator is used in lifting tables and jacks which require significantly more lifting capacity than telescopic towers can provide. They are in extreme demand in the construction industry, airports, car services, loading and unloading terminals, and so on. When used in confined spaces, attention is paid not only to the power but also to the dimensions, as well as the turning radius. The power and environmental safety of products can be different, which provides a wide range of applications. For instance, the electric lift mechanism is often used to design retractable audio and TV systems, miniature jacks, and other similar mechanisms.

When it comes to design choices, check out our blog for more ideas. Any queries? Contact us and we’d be delighted to help!

Anna Sapiga

AZ Engineer