Forklift Carriage Bounce Improvement

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  • Hyster-Yale Group[1]
Team Name Perfectly Balanced Engineers
Duration Fall 2020 - Spring 2021
Faculty Advisor
  • Dr. Swenson
  • Ian Glasgow
  • Samuel Weiss
Team Members
  • Bryce Bilderback
  • Sean Blatner
  • Nick Daquila
  • Conner Krezman

The goal of the project is to reduce or eliminate the bounce of the carriage on a forklift while moving over a rough and bumpy surface.

Problem Definition[edit]

The objective of this project is to reduce the bounce in the carriage of a forklift. When a forklift drives over a bumpy surface such as a pothole, cords, hoses, and broken pallets, the carriage of the forklift tends to bounce up and down violently. This bounce is loud, and can cause the operator to spill their load if the bounce is violent enough.


The "carriage" is the black part the red forks are attached to.

The "carriage" on a forklift is the part that the forks are held by. The carriage is held up by chains that ride on a pulley on top of the lifting cylinder. The carriage is suspended in air by the lifting chains, and held vertical by the rollers on the carriage that slide up and down inside the channel in the mast. As the forklift drives over a bump, the upwards momentum of the truck will cause the carriage to lift up while the lifting cylinder does not, causing slack in the lifting chains. When the carriage falls back down, it is in free fall until all the slack in the chain is taken and the carriage is stopped abruptly by the tension in the lifting chain. To add to that, the forks are not rigidly attached to the carriage so that the width can be adjusted manually for different loads. When the forks bounce up and down on the carriage, it creates a loud, undesirable clanging sound. Hyster-Yale would like to offer a system on their forklifts as a premium option to reduce the bouncing of the carriage. We will be developing a fully-functional concept prototype that aims to reduce or totally eliminate the bounce in the carriage and the forks.


We will be developing and building a fully functional prototype that will reduce the carriage bounce on the forklift. The design should be scalable to fork trucks of different lifting capacities.


User Interface Requirements[edit]

There will be little to no user input required in the final design. Ideally, the mechanism will auto-activate whenever there is not an up or down command from the user controls. A disengage function should be incorporated so that the user can disengage the mechanism from the cab of the forklift.

Load Capacity[edit]

The mechanism should be able to meet the load capacity of the forklift it will be applied to. Since the goal is a scaleable design, the load capacity should meet or exceed that of the parent forklift.

Surface Types[edit]

The carriage damping mechanism should be effective in conditions such as bumpy gravel lots, potholes in asphalt and concrete, and a messy concrete warehouse setting.

Design Considerations[edit]

Hydraulic Power[edit]

If a hydraulically powered solution is pursued, there are a couple of limitations. Hydraulic pressure is limited to 2500psi working pressure. The pressure and flow rate requirement of hydraulics must not limit the abilities of other hydraulic functions on the truck. Ideally, the solution should share hydraulic power and hoses with what currently exists on the mast and carriage of the forklift. There are a limited amount of hoses that can be routed to the carriage. If separate hoses are required for the mechanism, it will limit the number of other attachments that can be implemented on the forklift.

Electrical Power[edit]

The forklift runs on a 12 Volt system. Currently, power that is routed to the carriage and mast of the forklift is limited to a headlight circuit. Electrical power faces similar complications with cable routing that hydraulic power faces. Electrical wires routed to the carriage must be able to withstand incredibly high cycle counts before fatigue. Small current draw items such as solenoids can be incorporated, while large current draw items such as motors will require more in-depth project learning.


Safety is a huge consideration in the design stage. Large factors of safety must be implemented on any component within the load-line of the lift system. All aspects of safely lifting and placing a heavy load must be considered and tested comprehensively.

Project Learning[edit]

A few approaches were considered to dampen the bounce of the carriage. Hydraulic Accumulators, Spring/Damping systems, fork clamping mechanisms, and brakes were all researched.

Hydraulic Accumulators[edit]

2020 PerfectlyBalancedEngineers Accumulators.jpg

Hydraulic Accumulators work as a hydraulic approach to a spring-/damper system. Pressurized hydraulic and either a pressurized gas or a spring are separated by a membrane. As Hydraulic pressure increases and the volume on the hydraulic side of the accumulator increases, the pressure exerted by the pressurized gas/spring increases, acting very similar to a spring. Accumulators are connected in parallel with the lift cylinder hydraulic circuit. Hydraulic accumulators are commonplace on forklifts with heavy attachments, such as rotators. This application is limited in its damping abilities, and are used to reduce high-impulse loads exerted on the system by a heavy empty carriage bouncing. In order to approach a solution with this route, a hydraulic accumulator would need to be developed from scratch and tuned for the weight of the empty carriage while not limiting effectiveness of the lift system on a fully loaded carriage.

Spring/Dampener System[edit]

A spring and dampener system could prove an effective approach to eliminating the bounce of the carriage. Springs and dampeners have been explored in two locations on the forklift: on the top of the lift cylinder, and in series with the lift chains. The main design consideration with this approach is that the mechanism will lie directly in the load-line of the lifting system, and must adhere to the high factor of safety requirements for any component within the lifting system. Difficulty with this approach is presented when tuning the effective spring rate and damping ratios. The weight range of the carriage can vary from a few hundred pounds up to 2 or 3 tons. Developing a spring and dampener that is effective with an empty carriage and does not affect the capabilities of a fully loaded forklift brings many challenges.

Brake System[edit]

3D Model of preliminary brake design

A brake system could be incorporated into the carriage of the forklift to halt all movement of the carriage. It would effectively clamp the carriage to the mast of the forklift at all times except for when a movement is being commanded to the lift cylinder, either up or down. Design considerations here are largely spatial and hydraulic. In order to rigidly hold the carriage via a clamp on the mast, large normal forces will be required, something hydraulic power exceeds at. Routing separate hydraulic hoses to the carriage is a challenge in itself, and sharing hydraulics with the current hydraulics on the mast is desirable. A braking system must not exert an external net force, all forces must be contained within the brake "caliper" and the surface being clamped.

Force Measurement[edit]

In order to determine whether a design will work or not, quantitative measurement of the problem is required. In order to do this, strain gauges are being used to measure the forces present in the lift chains when the carriage bounces down, and a strain gauge load cell to test forces present when the carriage bounces up. Accurate strain gauge measurement takes time. While this process is being developed and executed, a faster but far less accurate method was used to measure forces. Accelerometers were placed on both the carriage and the mast of a forklift and then driven across various rough surfaces. The acceleration of the carriage relative to the mast was read and calculated, and will be used as a metric for preliminary design considerations.

Accelerometer measurement setup
Strain gauge glued to the lifting chain

Current Design[edit]

We are currently pursuing the brake caliper design. The design is being developed in accordance with a holding force of 4,000 pounds, a number received from data collection with the accelerometers. While strain measurement is being completed, we care continuing design of a scalable brake caliper. When more strain gauge data is available, the design will be finished and can be made in the machine shop.


In order to validate our design, we will be building a fully functional prototype. Hyster-Yale will be sending us a forklift carriage for us to install our design on and use for testing. We will be sending the carriage back to Hyster-Yale when the mechanism is installed, and it will be tested on Hyster-Yale's calibrated test course.

Team Members[edit]

2020 PerfectlyBalancedEngineers Bryce.jpg

Name: Bryce Bilderback
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Boise, ID

2020 PerfectlyBalancedEngineers Sean.jpg

Name: Sean Blatner
Major: Mechanical Engineering

2020 PerfectlyBalancedEngineers Conner.jpg

Name: Conner Krezman
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Bonners Ferry, ID

2020 PerfectlyBalancedEngineers Nick.jpg

Name: Nick Daquila
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Seattle, WA

Additional Documentation[edit]

Project Schedule

2020 perfectlyBalancedEngineers Schedule12-13.png

Meeting Minutes


File:2020 PerfectlyBalancedEngineers CDRPresentation.pdf

Client Interview