Automation and the difference between the carousel and the lift technologies

If you are familiar with the term “vertical lift machine”, you have probably heard it more often, as a vertical carousel... but it's not the same

Is there a difference between a lift system and a vertical carousel?

The lift system, in fact, is an advanced application, with the same function. Vertical Lift Machines are the most suitable solutions when the storage room has high ceilings - over 3 meters.

The idea behind modern Vertical Lift Machines is to optimize and speed up the commissioning process when you have to store and retrieve a large number of small and medium-sized, non-palletized goods.

We must emphasize that there are significant differences in the way Vertical Carousels and Vertical Lift Machines work. Why then, people still call Vertical Lift Machines a Vertical Carousel?

The reason is that Vertical Carousel became known in the 50s of last century. The Vertical Lift System was introduced later, as a significantly improved version of the carousel, but the old term continues to be part of the vocabulary, due to its prolonged use before. It’s important to stress, there are key differences between the Vertical Lift Machine and the Vertical Carousel, and we are going to summarize them, here:


  • The Vertical Carousel stores goods on trays, attached to a rotating chain. Like a Ferris wheel, the carousel carries objects with similar or same size and weight. Unlike the carousel, the Vertical Lift Machine uses trays that move independently, using innovative lift system.


  • In the case of the Vertical Carousel, the weight of the items on the tray must be balanced and equally distributed. Unlike the carousel, the trays of the VLM machines are independent and no weight balancing is required. Goods are stored and retrieved much faster, because the trays can move independently.


  • The levels in the Vertical Carousel are not adjustable, which leads to a loss of precious vertical space. Vertical Lift Machines have trays that are adjustable to the height of the goods. This way, small and large items are distributed in different trays, maximizing space utilization in the machine.


  • The vertical carousel has a very limited height - up to 7 meters, due to balance problems. Vertical Lift Machines can reach up to 16 meters and even more.


  • The Vertical Carousel requires all storage modules to move constantly in order to be able to remove the desired product - this wastes excess energy. Vertical Lift Machines do not have such a requirement, the trays move independently, and only the required tray reaches the picking door or the so called, picking bay. 


  • Although Vertical Carousels are still in production, they are considered obsolete technology. They still represent an improvement over traditional storage technologies, but not over their significantly improved version, namely VLM systems.


In conclusion, we may say that if you are looking for an Automated Storage System, it is more likely to look for a Vertical Lift Machine. This would be the optimal solution when the warehouse or the industrial plant has high ceilings. With low ceilings in the warehouse, below 2.5 meters, the more adequate solution is the horizontal carousel systems.