It is testament to the pulling power of an event such as LiftEx that exhibitors from as far afield as North America, Australia and Hong Kong made the commitment to a two-day exhibition taking place in the UK during the winter months. In recent years, the economic slowdown had lead to many companies reassessing their trade show presence. However, there are certain events that manufacturers and suppliers are loathed to miss and on this recent showing, LiftEx is clearly one of them.

"We’ve come all the way from Queensland solely for LiftEx," says Paul Jowsey, chief executive of safety inspection tag firm Jtagz in Australia and the EU. "It is important that we are here as it is an excellent networking event and an effective way to meet companies that could have an interest in the products we can offer."

It’s a sentiment echoed by Bradley Upton, technical sales and marketing at lifting equipment and conveyor manufacturer Niko. "The event provides an opportunity to meet with many of our customers face to face, to take enquiries and raise awareness of our brand," he explains. "This year’s show was by far the biggest and best LiftEx exhibition to date and Niko were proud to be a part of it."

Now in the 9th year of LiftEx, the event has grown from a small tabletop display to the UK’s leading lifting equipment exhibition. It has now become the must attend event if you want to network with hundreds of industry professionals, discover new innovations in the industry and hear the latest news from expert speakers.

The 2013 iteration featured more than 30% floor space than in 2012 and in excess of seventy leading companies exhibited last month, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the widest possible range of products and services related to safe, efficient overhead lifting and working at height.

High expectations
Ultimately, a key goal of any tradeshow organiser is to hold an event that people will travel far and wide to attend. The networking opportunities on offer made it evident over the two days that this was a driving force in attracting such diverse audience.

LiftEx 2012 in Coventry attracted just under 600 attendees and as this year’s event drew to a close, this figure had been easily surpassed. Apart from a comprehensive array of exhibitors on show, there was a emphasis placed on making the end user visitor aware of the TEAM card, which is a new initiative by the Lifting Equipment Engineers Association (LEEA). This has been designed to raise standards of safety in lifting equipment testing, examination and maintenance. Currently, most member companies are focusing on strengthening their service offer by more staff training.

Visitors to the 2013 also found the return of the Innovation Theatre, which gave companies the opportunity to present a new product or application to an audience of up to 50 visitors within the theatre for 30 minutes. Among those presenting in the Innovation Theatre were Crosby Europe, Van Beest, Modulift, Holland 1916-RFID, Hird, Scotload and Hoist UK. On offer were the LiftEx team has two awards, ‘The LEEA Most Innovative Product Award’ and ‘The LEEA Most Innovative Application of an Existing Product Award’ for the company with the most impressive product and application on show.

Awarding innovation
There were a significant number of highlights across the Innovation Theatre, which brought visitors up-to-speed with the latest developments across the industry. Among these was InfoChip, which presented some new RFID chips (including a 5.5mm diameter chip that has a very thin profile for fitting into even smaller lifting equipment). They will also be showcasing a line of free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android systems as well as Windows for tracking lifting assets.

Another expert in that field was Holland 1916 and its rugged RFID tag carriers that allow customers to tag assets and equipment that are exposed to harsh environmental conditions to enable asses management, inspection and compliance, maintenance, field service and other applications. Elsewhere, Intertraining Ltd showcased cross haul aid and design innovation planning software. This software is designed to aid the competent person to plan lifting operations using portable lifting equipment and sling arrangements on loads. It can reduce the time taken to produce technical data and drawings by up to 80% as well as reduce the risks in lifting operations and equipment.

Bell of the ball
However, it was Van Beest that fought off tough competition over the two days to walk away with the ‘LEEA Most Innovative Product Award 2013’ for its P-5365 – Green Pin ROV Release Polar Shackles, with locking clamp. Anton van der Zalm, senior product and marketing manager at Van Beest said the award capped a successful two days for the business which attracted a wealth of visitors to its stand. "The show has been great for us, good quality visitors, it has been specially good because we presented at the innovation theatre at came away with the award."

The winning product comes from the Van Beest range of ROV shackles, which are suitable for subsea use and operation by a remote operated vehicle. The Remote Operated Vehicle is fitted with an hydraulically controlled arm, which can safely release heavy equipment under water. As a result, ROV lifting equipment is often brightly coloured or fluorescent to assist the operator in identifying the components in poor or artificial light under water. According to van der Zalm, the shackle can have a certain design that can only release a load, only retrieve a load, or if required, do both.

Its Green Pin ROV Release Polar Shackles, with locking clamp is used when multiple sling legs are used, or if there is a risk for side loads. Van Beest recommends a specially-designed locking clamp with a securing spring pin to be used. The locking clamp replaces the functionality of a standard nut. Other products Van Beest promoted on its stand was its Green Pin ROV Release Polar Shackle with spring pins, which has two spring pins as securing devices.

"This configuration is strictly for in-line loading and may not be side loaded. This solution is simple and relatively cheap and has the possibility to connect the two safety pins for single grabbing with the ROV," explains van der Zalm.

Elsewhere, the winner of the LEEA ‘Most Innovative Application of an Existing Product Award 2013’ was Hoist UK for its Ultra lightweight aluminium centre eyelifting frame. Speaking about the accolade, Hoist UK explains the frame as a challenging project that called upon the company’s expertise in the field.

"We were asked to design a centre eye lifting frame for a large blue chip customer, which at first doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary. The frame was for a 600kg SWL and needed to have a central lifting eye and four drop points at 5.5m x 5.3m centres, but due to limitations on their existing crane systems the mass of the frame would need to be below 150kg in total, which is not so simple," the company explained.

Hoist UK designed, manufactured and tested an aluminium structure utilising its sister company Truss UK’s LT series compact light duty truss for the main structural elements of the beam with custom designed drop and centre eye suspension points. Its customer requested a full and detailed manufacturing quality plan as well as a witnessed testing of the finished lifting frame in our works by their specialist team of factory acceptance engineers.

The finished lifting frame structure came in with a self-weight of just below 140kg and was successfully approved for use by the customer on its one and only customer acceptance trial without any modifications required to either the paperwork or manufactured components.

Show highlights
While the Innovation Theatre gave companies the opportunity to showcase their latest developments to a target audience, a wealth of new product innovations were on display throughout the arena.

Red Rooster Industrial (UK) was on hand to showcase its product range that comprises air hoists (Standard & ATEX), powered winches, manual winches, load cells, load shackles, wire rope hoists, snatch blocks and wire rope spoolers.

Having recently become an official Kito distributor within the UK, Red Rooster now offers Kito a range of products consisting of electric chain hoists, manual chain hoists, lever hoists, trolleys and beam clamps. The company showcased a 1 tonne Kito CB manual chain hoist that has been converted to ATEX configuration. Such equipment is used in hazardous environments and is bronze coated (on both top and bottom hooks by Red Rooster) to protect the base metal and prevent sparks.

The ATEX "CB" hand chain hoist is supplied with the bronze coated upper and lower hooks, dual pawl, which is essential for offshore, brass ratchet wheel, sealed bearings and heavy duty safety hook – all of which are extras added to a standard Kito "CB" hoist. Red Rooster sell, hire, repair and service their range of products most of which may be supplied in "Standard" or "ATEX" configuration. Manual chain hoists, up to 50t capacity, are available with optional "ATEX Zone 1" or "Offshore" configuration. Red Rooster also hold 20t, 30t, 40t and 50t capacity hand chain hoists within their rental fleet.

Jtagz came from Queensland, Australia to promote its portfolio of visual identification tagging products. Among these was its Raktag range, which is available in sizes spanning from 175mm to 300mm. It is a durable nylon tag that is used for the safety inspection of lifting equipment in mining and heavy industrial conditions.

"These inspection tags can be personalised with your logo and sequential numbering," says chief executive Paul Jowsey. "Once applied the patented Raktag fastening system develops an almost unbreakable bond which permits tamper evidence should the tag be removed and reapplied."

RUD used it presence at LiftEx to exhibit the WBPG, its next generation hoist ring designed for heavy duty lifting applications. Capable of lifting between 85 and 200 tonnes, the ring can be loaded from any side in the direction of the pivot, which means the product can be used for lifting and turning heavy loads.

The company also showcased its VLBSU- LT 2,5t welded load ring, which can operate at temperatures as low as – 45°C, which means the ring can be used for a number of offshore, arctic offshore and other specialised construction projects. In addition, RUD now supplies its lifting products with embedded RFID chips, which enables the efficient track and identification of applications.

Another company that enjoyed a strong showing at this year’s event was Innovation Theatre award winners Hoist UK, which also exhibited Verlinde’s Eurochain VR Electric chain hoist line, which are capable of handling loads from 63 to 5,000kg. According to the manufacturer, the high precision machining on the gear trains guarantees operation with a very low level of noise annoyance while the clutch is "very easy" to access for occasional maintenance operations.

AJT Engineering supplies its range of Accuway Load Cells, which are designed and manufactured in the UK. These are supplied complete with handheld monitor, calibration certificate, manual and carry case. Elsewhere, Lifting Gear Products, which was founded in 1953, specialises in the design, manufacture, repair and supply of lifting and mechanical handling equipment. Kuplex, Morris and Camlok equipment, as well as its Goliath products, are all supplied by Lifting Gear Products.

CoreRFID is a firm that has a burgeoning presence in the material lifting sector. It used its stand at LiftEx 2013 to promote its a maintenance inspection system, CheckedOK. The system has been designed to "answer the need" for inspection monitoring that can ease compliance, reduce the risk of accident and improve equipment availability while saving costs.

The system shows inspections are meeting safety regulations and according to CoreRFID, simple to use, cost effective and quick to implement. It is also claimed to save costs by reducing time spent by engineers on inspections and administrative effort in producing regulatory returns.

Elsewhere, Modulift was another star of this year’s Innovation Theatre and it was on hand to exhibit its first Modular Spreader Frame, the CMOD Spreader Frame. According to the manufacturer, this frame has been designed in response to customer demand and the gap in the market for a "truly adaptable frame" that can maintain its engineering principles as its configuration adapts.

"Designed with ease and economy in mind – the CMOD is simple for the user to set up, manoeuvre and equally easy for the user to reconfigure to any size frame – allowing for multiple uses and diverse application," the company said.

The current configuration of the CMOD Spreader Frame can lift up to 70t, while the company already has plans for a 110t capacity model. Spans range from 0.5m2 to 12m2, while adapting up to 1m x 12m in a rectangular frame.

Platinum Sponsor of this year’s event, Crosby Europe introduced the new Crosby 2170 Grommet Shackle series. The shackles are intended for "critical" lifting applications that require high capacity with limited or tight headroom. These are often found in chemical plants, refineries, interstate highway construction and offshore derrick barge cranes. According to Crosby, the Grommet Shackle series is designed for use with single or double large diameter grommets.

"The new shackle design provides a bearing surface that is at least 5 times that of a round shackle, increasing the usable sling strength minimum by 60% and greatly improves the life of the grommet sling," they added.

For Hird at LiftEx 2013, much of the focus was on its latest glazing robot, the Winlet 600. A star of the Innovation Theatre, the machine is a glass lifter that can also be adapted to transport and lift a range of other materials, such as concrete, granite, steel plates, wooden plates and plasterboards.

"It’s based on the Winlet 350, but with some clever design changes, achieves a maximum lift capacity of 600kg, without compromising any of the benefits of the 350, notably its compact shape and manoeuvrability,"adds Hird’s Carl Cooper.