The new Benchmark hoists from Jands were selected by the Guilford Young College in Hobart for the flying equipment at their performing arts centre.

The completion of the purpose-built performing arts centre at Guilford Young’s Glenorchy Campus followed years of discussions, consultations with partner organisations and fundraising, leading to the establishment of a new professional standard venue whose facilities are matched in Hobart only by the Theatre Royal.

Alongside students training in music, dance and drama, Guilford Young teaches future theatre technicians all the skills they’ll need to work in professional venues, imparting lighting, sound and mechanical skills. The fly tower at the centre trains students on how to fly sets and equipment using a mixture of manually operated counterweights and motor-driven systems. Safety is a critical requirement when lighting, sound and scenic elements are flown above the heads of those on stage. The team at Guilford Young had to ensure that the students could be taught to industry standard while protecting the life and limb of everyone using the facility.

According to Mathew Andrewartha, Performing Arts Technician at Guilford Young College, five lighting bars with counterweights were originally specified for the theatre. They then decided to put four of them on electric hoists. He explained that the hoists offered OH&S advantages over a counterweight system as well as ease of use. Additionally, the use of electric hoists would keep the students abreast of the latest techniques used in stage production at professional venues.

Guilford Young chose Jands’ new Benchmark hoists for their flying equipment. Built with redundant motors, gearboxes and brakes, the Benchmark hoist was designed from the ground-up to provide the best possible protection in a high-risk environment.

Mathew explains that the Benchmark, compared to other hoists on the market, is smaller, lighter and much easier to use and service, and does not compromise on safety. Being fully enclosed, the hoist eliminates any pinch points.

Chris Clegg, the designer at Jands responsible for the Benchmark hoist, said that they went through four designs before finalising on their solution. It was important to design the machine to the Australian Standard AS1418 (Cranes, Hoists and Winches) and in particular, clause; Special Lifting Applications. When equipment is lifted on a hoist at a venue, there is a risk of objects falling on the people below, causing injury or even death. In most other hoists, if some portion fails and the load starts to travel, it would need to reach a speed one and a half times the normal lowering speed before the emergency brake is activated. To avoid losing control of the load before the brake activates, a redundant drive system is required.

Benchmark is fitted with patent-pending monitoring and a totally redundant drive train to address these issues and ensure maximum safety. Chris explains that the load is protected on both sides with a brake and a gearbox. Both motors are monitored, so that a brake can be applied if they get out of sync. Each brake is rated at 1.6 times the entire capacity of the machine itself. If any component fails, the equipment is still always attached to a full capacity brake.

The Benchmark is a scaled-down, high-performance machine with a high-risk certification, designed for the smaller theatre market. The hoist is available in four models, the VS-1, VS-2, VS-3 and VS-4, with the most powerful unit lifting up to 650kg at 14 metres a minute, and the fastest flying a load at 1.2 metres a second.

The four units at Guilford Young are controlled via a Jands SAX-P1 single axis controller, enabling the students to record and playback six preset positions.

After working through the design and construct process with Jands, Guilford Young College Principal Bobby Court is very happy with the results. Observing that the building construct was complex, she said the Jands team was a dream to work with from design to install.

Jands is a leading Australian distributor of sound, lighting and staging systems.