A lifting bag is an item of diving equipment consisting of a robust and air-tight bag with straps, which is used to lift heavy objects underwater by means of the bag's buoyancy. The heavy object can either be moved horizontally underwater by the diver or sent unaccompanied to the surface.
Lift bag appropriate capacity should match the task at hand. If the lift bag is grossly oversized a runaway or otherwise out of control ascent may result. Commercially available lifting bags may incorporate dump valves to allow the operator to control the buoyancy during ascent, but this is a hazardous operation with high risk of entanglement in an uncontrolled lift or sinking. If a single bag is insufficient, multiple bags may be used, and should be distributed to suit the load.
There are also lifting bags used on land as short lift jacks for lifting cars or heavy loads or lifting bags which are used in machines as a type of pneumatic actuator which provides load over a large area. These lifting bags of the AS/CR type are for example used in the brake mechanism of rollercoasters.
Types and construction
Underwater lifting bags are lifting equipment and as such may be required to comply with safety standards.
Open lift bags (parachute lift bags)
Parachute lift bags are open at the bottom. When full any extra or expanding air will spill out. The shape of an open lifting bag should distribute the volume in a vertical rather than a horizontal direction so that the open end of the bag always remains underwater. If the open end reaches the surface, air will escape from the bag and it may sink.
The simplest version are two-sided bags, either joined round the edges or folded and joined along two sides. Webbing straps may be stitched to doubler patches which are then glued or welded to the bag on light duty bags, but on large and heavy duty bags there are usually strips of bag material bonded to the bags which form flat retaining tubes for the webbing which is threaded through the tubes and may be withdrawn for maintenance and inspection. heavy duty open bags are generally conical with a domed top or a reversed truncated cone top, and may have several straps from the lifting point at the bottom, through the guide tubes on the sides, to a crown ring of webbing or steel at the top, to spread the load evenly over the fabric of the bag.
Parachute lift bags cannot be overfilled and are suitable for lifts where there is a large pressure change, and where it may be necessary to capsize (invert) the bag to stop a runaway lift.
Some lift bags can be converted from open to closed by screwing a cover onto the bottom opening.