Composite Vacuum Lifting Beam

RHC Lifting Limited has supplied two vacuum lifting beams, which will be used to lift and rotate composite carbon fibre wing spars at GKN Aerospace's new state of the art composite wing structures manufacturing and assembly facility, in Bristol, UK, which was officially opened on Friday 27th April by George Osborne.


The vacuum beams have been designed with ultimate flexibility in mind as they will be used to lift a number of different sized post cured Airbus A350 wing spars. The vacuum lifting beams lift and rotate the wing structures via suction, so not to damage or mark the surface of the composite structure and can lift up to 600kgs.


The frame has tandem lift points at 6m centres with extendable sections each end giving an overall length of 11.6m and has the ability to rotate the load 180 degrees. The beam has a total of ten 160mm diameter pads along the centre line of the beam and 7 pairs of 210mm diameter pads each side of centre, all of the pads positions can be adjusted via aluminium guides.

The HMI software includes a teach screen where pad configurations can be saved and selected from a menu depending on which component is to be lifted, so there is no need to reprogram the beam on each lift.


The vacuum beam also includes a Siemens wireless control and is fully integrated into the GKN Aerospace's existing overhead latching crane system, which RHC Lifting installed back in 2010. The vacuum beams are controlled by the crane's Autec radio remote with full indexing so that the main crane PLC can determine which of the 8 latching cranes is fitted with the vacuum beams.
A large vacuum reservoir was incorporated into the frame structure giving excellent safety margins. Indication of the pad isolation and good vacuum pressure is shown on the panel HMI and also local LED beacons above each pad.


Five retractable load arrest straps were also fitted to the pad cross members for added safety in the event of power failure and vacuum loss to ensure the safety of personnel and the product. In the event of a failure the straps would arrest within 100mm to prevent the component falling.

One of RHC Lifting's Directors, Philip Goodway, said "with vacuum lifting beams, we have delivered a product which offers a totally customised solution, this will allow GKN to lift of carbon fibre wing spars, even those which are yet to be fully designed."


GKN Aerospace will now receive RHC Lifting's after sales care package including, operator training, servicing, statutory inspections and provide 24/7 breakdown cover for a two year warrant period.

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Contact Details

RHC Lifting Limited - HQ

Lawrence Drive

Stover Trading Estate

Yate, Bristol

BS37 5PG


Tel: 01454 332270


Autec Enq: 

RHC Lifting Limited - Yeovil 

RHC Lifting Limited

C/O Leonardo Helicopters

Lysander Road


BA20 2YB


Tel: 01935 704076

RHC Lifting Limited - Plymouth 

11 Mary Seacole Road




Tel: 01752 250501

Current Vacancies

2 x Crane Service / Installation Engineers (London & Yorkshire)Current Vacancies


The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association LEEA

RHC Lifting are proud members of LEEA - The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association

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© RHC Lifting Limited, Lawrence Drive, Stover Trading Estate, Yate, Bristol, BS37 5PG
Yeovil - RHC Lifting Limited, C/O Leonardo Helicopters, Lysander Road, Yeovil, BA20 2YB
Plymouth - RHC Lifting Limited, 11 Mary Seacole Road, Plymouth, PL1 3JY