Man Lift helps National Gallery move priceless artwork

Man Lift Mfg. Co. of Cudahy recently built a custom engineered lift for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
The 40-employee company was founded in 2000 to manufacture custom lifts for any situation, said Jeff Bailey, Man Lift president. It brings in about $8 million in annual revenue.
Because the National Gallery houses works by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh, Man Lift had the task of building an “explosion proof” man and material lift that could elevate to 60 feet as well as extend 17 feet while employees hang longer pieces of art.
That meant no hydraulics, as the fluid from that process has the potential to leak out and damage artwork, Bailey said.
“They were concerned if a fitting came loose and oil would spurt out. They didn’t want any chance of that happening,” he said.
So Man Lift’s engineers designed a cable system that uses electric motors, winches and guides to elevate, extend and rotate the lift 360 degrees. It can also fold down to fit into a storage elevator.
From concept to completion, the project took about eight months. National Gallery representatives came up with the concept for the lift and had input throughout the design process, Bailey said.
Man Lift builds lifts on a project-specific basis, so it doesn’t focus on a large output, he said. They have also completed lifts used in launching satellites at Cape Canaveral and in a performance at Disney World.
“We’ve kind of owned this market on custom lifts,” Bailey said. “Our whole structure is based on low quantity custom build.”

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