How Does A Capstan Winch Work? Types, Benefits & Applications In 2022

Winches are versatile, and they come in different types. There are electric capstan winches and non-electric capstan winches.

The first type uses a manual operation, while the second uses an electric motor. This article focuses on how the manual operation capstan winch works.

It describes the winch’s main components, including the

  • Reel
  • Drive system
  • Drive pulley
  • Spring clutch
  • Gearbox
  • Bearings
  • Brake
  • Shaft

The method of use is described and the function of each component.

Capstan Winch

Capstan winches are manually operated and can be classified into two types. These are non-electric capstan winches and electric capstan winches.

Capstan Winch
source:thern.com

Non-electric capstan winches have been widely used since their inception and were popular due to their reliability and ability to operate in remote locations.

Electric capstan winches have now taken over this position due to their increased capacity, flexibility, and other added features.

They can now be operated from remote locations using batteries or electrical generators.

Mechanism Of Operation

In order to start a capstan winch, a pull must be exerted on the handle, which causes the reel to rotate.

A large drum attached to the reel has teeth around its periphery, which meshes with a driven gear attached to the shaft.

This meshing between the teeth and the driven gear converts the pulling force into the rotational motion of the shaft.

The movement of the shaft then leads to the action of the brake system, which reduces the movement of the shaft further to ensure that the driving mechanism stops at the end of the rotation.

The rotation speed is also controlled by the springs that act as clutching devices.

They ensure that the rotation does not continue beyond a certain limit.

A cable wound around the reel provides a means of transport for the lifting load and can be easily pulled from the reel when it is required.

Types Of Capstan Winches

There are many types of capstan winches available in the market today.

1. Disc Type Winch

The most common capstan winch used in mines is the disc Type Winch. It has an upright frame that supports the entire unit.

Disc Type Winch
source:www.rig123.com

It has an integral housing at the bottom containing the

  • Spool
  • Drive gears
  • Bearings

The drum is also contained within the drum housing.

The motor, brake system, and control box are housed within the upper section of the frame.

Centralized Winch
source:www.zicom.com.sg

2. Centralized Winch

Another type of capstan winch used in mines is the centralized winch.

This winch has enclosed housing at the top with a mast coming out of the top and supported by four or more pillars.

Benefits Of Capstan Winches

Capstan winches have several benefits over conventional hoists and derricks. Some of these benefits are:

1. Low Capital Cost

The initial cost of installing a capstan winch is relatively low if compare it to other forms of hoists and derricks.

They are purchase able with minimal operational costs and still deliver significant savings on labor costs. There is no need for specialized safety gear or additional maintenance procedures, further reducing operating costs.

2. Space-Saving

Due to their compact design, capstan winches require less space than their counterparts. They are mountable even directly onto a standard railway platform, taking up a minimum of space.

3. Easy To Operate

Due to their streamlined design, capstan winches require minimal effort to operate.

There is no need for heavy cranes or special operators to handle them. A lightweight engine can easily pull them along at full speed.

4. Multiple Attachments

Capstan winches are perfect fit with various attachments such as

  • Rock baskets
  • Conveyors
  • Air Guns
  • Backfill
  • Loading grabs
  • Forklifts
  • Cranes
  • Lifting booms

Capstan winches have numerous applications in the mining and construction industries.

5. Design

Their simple design makes them ideal for remote areas where bulky equipment is difficult to transport. It also means that capstan winches are portable on-site without specialized vehicles.

The weight of a capstan winch is very low, making it suitable for Pulling by even small power sources.

6. Drawback

However, there are also certain drawbacks of capstan winches, which may limit their use. The main drawback is the necessity of pulling the load at high speeds.

They must be attached to large, powerful engines and pullers.
This adds significantly to the cost of installation and operating the system.

Another major drawback is the requirement of relatively high starting torque to start the engine; this results in more wear and tear on the engine and greater noise levels.

Application Of Capstan Winches

Capstan winches are quite versatile and come in handy in several different ways, some of these application are:

Underground Mines & Tunnels
source:www.istockphoto.com

1. Underground Mines & Tunnels

As well as being an excellent means of loading minerals from underground mine shafts, capstan winches can also be used to raise the workforce from underground workings to the surface in cases of an emergency.

The machines can also extract miners from deep tunnels in case of a fire or gas explosion.

2. Tractor Operations

Tractor operators may prefer to use capstan winches instead of hydraulics for moving a plow on steep inclines.

Harbor & Harbor Berths
source:shoretension.com

3. Harbor & Harbor Berths

A typical application of capstan winches is for unloading ships at harbors and berths. The use of capstan winches avoids the need for complex hoisting systems, leading to potential damage to cargo or personnel.

4. Hydraulic Lift Systems

Hydraulic Lift Systems
source:www.indiamart.com

Hydraulic systems have several advantages over other lifting methods, including no chain sprockets or heavy lift cranes, but there are drawbacks too.

Hydraulic systems require complex valves, pumps, and cylinders with complete maintenance regularly, increasing operational costs.


Capstan winches have fewer moving parts and operate on much simpler principles.

They do not require additional space for maintenance purposes, making them perfect for multiple applications.

Final Thoughts

Capstan winches have many uses and advantages over conventional manual winches.

We have covered all the key things to know about the best way to use a capstan winch with this capstan winch guide.

The reader can go through this entire guide from start to finish without opening any books or conducting any additional research.

We hope that This guide has done an excellent job helping people with capstan winch operations.

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