An exhibition designed for riggers and technicians working in the entertainment industry is not, at first sight, an obvious destination for a magazine dedicated to factory cranes and through-the-air industrial material handling. However, a visit to the Professional Lighting & Sound Association (PLASA) exhibition in London in September was a real eye-opener.

We have written before in Hoist about coordinating multiple hoists to make witches fly in stage shows. What some of the PLASA exhibitors can do with the ostensibly humble electric chain or wire rope hoist deserves more exposure. There was Verlinde’s Stagemaker F Cyberhoist, for which the claim that it is ‘a revolution in rigging and motion control’ may not be mere hyperbole. There was PCM, which offers a whole range of modifications to Lodestar hoists, including encoders, and special brake systems to reduce noise. And there was the Ibex, a system for automated control of any number of hoists, from Outboard Electronics.

Many of these innovations will not be seen at the more general materials handling shows because they have been developed with the entertainment industry in mind rather than factory assembly lines. Despite this it seems there is scope for some technology transfer from theatre to factory. Budget is the key difference between the two customer bases – the entertainment industry can spend $100m on a 90 minute movie. Showbusiness thinks bigger than manufacturing.

That said, the Ibex automation system has already generated an enquiry from a metal plating company looking to automate its processes. Hoist users would do well do explore the world of the venue technicians to see where their imagination has taken them and to learn what they are making possible.