Skip to content

Morello heavy duty platform carts V Air Cushion Solutions

In the world of heavy material handling technology, for moving heavy industrial materials, there are different types of equipment and technologies to choose between. Wikipedia talks about four major categories of equipment:[2] transport equipment, positioning equipment, unit load formation equipment, and storage equipment.

Transport equipment is used to move material from one location to another (e.g., between workplaces, between a loading dock and a storage area, etc.), while positioning equipment is used to manipulate material at a single location.[3] One of the major subcategories of transport equipment are industrial trucks.

Morello is a leading manufacturer of heavy-duty platform carts (industrial truck or vehicle) and is highly specialised in moving heavy loads of up to 1000 tons in-plant, both indoors and outdoors.


As a designer and manufacturer of heavy-duty transfer carts Morello has at times received questions from companies who wish to evaluate wheel-based platform carts against air caster technology, or air cushion systems.  An air caster is a pneumatic lifting device used to move heavy loads on flat, non-porous surfaces. The operation is similar to a hovercraft, as they use a thin layer of air as a way to float a very small distance off the ground. 

As with any commercial technology there are situations where this technology can provide benefits. However, in industrial plant environments there are also many scenarios where air casters are not 100% suitable.


There are many factors to consider when selecting the most suitable heavy material handling technology for your plant: productivity and efficiency, plant environment, safety and security, cost, waste and space utilisation, energy consumption, distance to name a few.

Over the years Morello has manufactured and supplied heavy duty transfer carts

to companies who were experiencing problems with an existing air caster vehicle and resolved these issues by moving to a wheel-based vehicle. Let’s have a look at some of the issues they were experiencing.

If you know the right questions to ask you are more likely to make a more informed investment decision!

Air Casters V Wheel-Based technologies

Floating system: the air caster or air cushion is effectively a suspended weight with the load ‘floating’ on a film of air above the floor surface. In the case of machine or power supply failures there are risks for both equipment and people. A wheel-based transfer cart is supported by its solid steel structure. It is not advisable to use air casters in seismic zones for example.

Floor surface: air casters require a perfect floor surface to operate on. Small irregularities in the floor can cause problems. Despite developments in the technology air casters require a smooth, non-porous surface in order to maintain lift and operate effectively. Any defect in the floor surface creates the risk of interrupting the airflow, this can cause the air cushion to dissipate and thus lose lift. In manufacturing industries, where these problems are common, air casters are often just not suitable.

Damaged concrete floor

Power Supply: Air casters operate using compressed air and the air hose must be connected to the vehicle. This implies that the movement of an air caster vehicle around a plant is limited to the availablity and length of the compressed air hose. The air caster system is also a high energy consumer meaning the system cannot be powered by a battery. The result is that air casters are suitable for moving loads in very short limited distances and are much less flexible compared to a wheel-based vehicle.

Floor Slopes: as the air caster is a floating system floor slopes can create a navigation problem. The system is less secure and safe if the floor is not perfectly flat. Floor traction and grip is much lower than wheel-based vehicles creating problems to control the load.

Building access ramp

Plant Floor Maintenance: Where an air caster system is operating the flooring must be maintained for the reasons mentioned above. These are additional costs in floor maintenance which would otherwise not be required as frequently.

Indoor / Outdoor: Morello heavy duty platform carts are designed for both indoor and outdoor use. Air casters just do not perform effectively on asphalt or other rough outdoor surfaces. This is a limiting operational factor which do not apply to wheel-based carts.

Heavy duty trolley moving heavy load

Obstacles en route: Relating to all the above points is the issue of small obstacles along the route of the vehicle.  These small obstacles can become big problems. While wheel-based carts can roll over small objects the air casters route must be kept clear.

Braking systems: The Braking system on an air caster vehicle is a weak point. A wheel-based vehcile may have a braking system individually, as required, on all wheels. An air caster vehicle may have one or two wheels in contact with the ground for steering and braking. The result is that air caster movement must be relatively much slower than a wheel-based vehicle, and also trust that the weaker braking system has no technical faults.

Future Planning: The limitations of an air caster vehicle mean that there is much less flexibility when it comes to future plant developments. Distance, floor conditions, compressed air availability, indoors v outdoors are all limiting factors to be considered which do not apply in the case of a wheel-based vehicle. If at some time in the future the operations of a plant are modified an existing air caster vehicle may have problems operating within the new layout.

Air Casters are a very compact solution in a perfect environment and for short distances can be a cost-effective solution. That said, the many limiting factors of the technology must be carefully evaluated. Morello has been called upon on various occasions to resolve operational issues which were being caused by air cushion technology. The range of wheel-based vehicle technologies is vast and Morello’s custom designed solutions can be adapted to operational scenarios across a multitude of industries.

Contact us. We look forward to speaking with you!

Morello Client Engagement Team: Amedeo Morello, Luca Tibaldi, Stefano Rizzo


It may also interest you