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You may have seen one of these neat forklifts on Mythbusters — the Airtrax Sidewinder ATX-3000, now being built and marketed by Vetex, uses Mecanum wheels to give omni-directional mobility in a lift truck. The Mecanum wheels, invented by Bengt Ilon when he was an engineer working for Mecanum AB, have a series of tilted elliptical rollers around the circumference. This allows normal forward and backward motion like a conventional wheel, but also provides sideways motion (by rotating the wheels on the front and rear axles in opposite directions).

On the Sidewinder, each wheel is a steel hub with 12 polyurethane-coated rollers. The operator controls forward, backward, sideways, and rotational movements using a traction joystick. All the lift, tilt, and auxiliary hydraulic movements are controlled by a second joystick. The electric Sidewinder has a load capacity of 3000 lbs. I was not able to find out what a new Sidewinder costs, though an expired online listing for a used one had a price of $15,000.

SIDEWINDER Lift Truck [Manufacturer's Site]

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12 Responses to It’s Just Cool: Airtrax Sidewinder

  1. shopmonger says:

    this would be great in shipping departments when the aisles are tight, or for loading machinery when pinpoint accuracy is the key….

    ShopMonger

  2. Gregg says:

    They also made an appearance on Prototype This for their self parking car. I believe the PT guys liked them so much they bought a whole forklift as well :)

  3. kyle says:

    I have always wondered what the deal with the wheels was on the forklift i saw on mythbusters.

  4. jason says:

    They also used this one in the new star trek movie! Along with a pair of barcode scanners on the bridge.

  5. KMR says:

    Our shop is close enough to a major air freight terminal that we often go to pick up and drop off stuff there rather than deal with the expense of truck shipment right to the shop… this forklift wouldn’t work at FedEx Freight or Forward Air. Both of those places rely on these min-fork lifts, and the key require is that they need to be FAST!

    You wouldn’t believe how quick these guys fly around massive warehouses with cargo on the forks. Most of these freight warehouses have tons of open space, no tight spaces, stuff sits for an hour or a day max and then it is gone. The whole point of these operations is fast.

    This is probably great for individual businesses with space restrictions, but massive warehouse operations, no they need something with full rubber slicks! Even the guys at McMaster’s warehouses fly around in conventional mini-forks lifts.

  6. Cameron Watt says:

    Back when I was a warehouseman at a distribution centre, I recall machines at work specifying, among other things, the width of aisle they were designed to handle. We had reach machines that could grab a palette in a 13′ aisle in one pass but an operator could do a 20 point turn and get something out of an 8 foot aisle.

    As for flying around, if things were being moved more than a short distance, it was usually faster to us the forklifts exclusively for loading/unloading palette racks and using motorized jacks for run them to and from the trucks.

    I recall visiting another warehouse with very narrow aisles; maybe six feet. The machines in that warehouse had forks that would reach out sideways to grab the load. It was really neat.

    Remember that old show Beyond 2000 that featured gimmicky, hi-tech ideas and products? I recall a fellow with a similar wheel he called the Ezekiel wheel. His idea was more about relieving the side strain on tires when turning tri-axle trailers.

  7. Brau says:

    The only question I have is whether this lift violates the KISS rule. Most lifts I see in use are time tested cast iron/solid wheel units built somewhat like trains … because big heavy simplicity won’t let you down when trucks are waiting. There’s 48 “wheels” on this unit. That’s a lot of bearings to fail, not including the main axles, and whatever unique transmission is used to make it all work. Somewhere, someone has ordered a couple and is assessing their longevity/expense as we speak; I’d sure like to hear their experience.

  8. Jim K. says:

    Just in case someone reads this and decides that their next project absolutely NEEDS to have mecanum wheels, here’s a link to a 3D printable version: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2318

  9. ambush says:

    A small forklift can pretty much turn on the spot anyway though.

  10. Bob Downs says:

    I own two of them, bought the first one in 2005. They still attract attention.

  11. hugejuan says:

    Starts new at $53,000.

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