Regulations and a notable move towards high capacity, range topping machines have been keeping articulated loader crane manufacturers busy over the last 12 months.
The knuckle boom crane sector has not been alone in moving towards safer lifting operations with a sense of urgency. The European Standard for Loader Cranes EN12999:2009 came into force last year and has proved to be a benchmark for the knuckle boom industry.
Arguably, the most important element is the incorporation of the stabiliser system into the crane's load moment limitation system. "The latest amendment to EN12999 has raised the bar for the whole loader crane market. The requirement for all cranes to be equipped with stabiliser interlock systems is the most significant development in the loader crane market for many years," says Pete May, Fassi (UK) Ltd.
"Fassi has developed its system to be both safe and fully flexible, which is what the market is demanding. Those manufacturers who are offering more basic systems which may conform, but restrict the machine's versatility are going to find it a very tough market to sell into."
Such system adaptation has proved a major technological challenge for the industry. Richard Short, sales director at Penny Hydraulics in the UK explains, "First, making the system tamper proof; Second, ensuring water and [road] salt do not lead to excessive down time; Third, the complexity of loader crane operation means that systems have to meet the needs of the operator. Finally, there is the new requirement for each lifting operation to be planned. It is no longer possible to simply turn up and lift loads over crowded pavements."
Manufactures have responded to increasing safety requirements with a range of solutions. An example is Denmark-based HMF's Electronic Vehicle Stability system (EVS), which calculates the extent to which the load on the back of a truck can serve as a counterweight. This allows the operator to maximise the loader's capacity, or work in tight situations where the stabilising legs cannot be fully extended, while eliminating any risk of the vehicle toppling, says HMF.
Another is Palfinger's SH range, launched in 2010, which includes five models: three cranes in the 20 to 35 tonne-metre class, plus a 40 and a 50 tonne-metre cranes. It was brought in to coincide with the new regulations and includes 5% more lifting capacity, a new electronic control system, a new CAN-bus control valve and a new type of radio remote control with LCD display. There is also continuous slewing starting from 23 tonne-metres.
A trend in the knuckle boom sector is increased lifting capacity, combined with cost-saving features. "Crane operators want to have bigger cranes with the highest possible lifting capacity, while at the same time keeping the truck size reasonable. This means that the crane has to be light but able to offer the highest possible capacity and long outreach," says Mikael Rietz, vice president, Cargotec loader cranes
At the SAIE exhibition, in Bologna, Italy, last October, there were a number of new range-topping machines on show. High capacity models included the 138 tonne-metre rated F1800AXP from Fassi, the largest and most powerful crane in its class, says the manufacturer. Initial deliveries were set for late April 2011. There are three versions with up to eight hydraulic extensions to a maximum reach of 19.4 m. There will also be two models offering a jib with four or six extensions. There is also a boom extension system with dual jacks and connecting rod. It is designed to have a folding crane behind the cab that gives the best performance possible in terms of lifting capacity without having to keep the inner and outer booms folded over the box.
Effer presented what it describes as the most powerful knuckle boom ever built, with the 250 tonne-metre Effer 2455 Progress. The maximum seven stage boom with six jib extensions, reaching 59 m, can be supplied in three configurations: on a truck with double subframe, on crawler tracks with a subframe, or on remote controlled crawler tracks without a subframe. The crane has the company's progress control system and is mounted on the most advanced version of its Crosstab stabiliser system.
Copma launched the biggest crane in its range, the Model 1600. "Everyone is making heavy duty cranes. The market is requesting 40 m."
Cormach launched its 67000 E9 F134 loader crane series with seven to 11 boom extensions. The machine also offers a jib with up to six extensions.
Following SAIE, Turkey-based World Power will manufacture a 130 tonne all terrain knuckle boom crane in the next 12 months. "We launched a 150 tonne capacity all terrain knuckle boom which is still the only all terrain knuckle boom crane in the world," says Said Guvenc Tokgoz, World Power Global sales manager. "This crane's axle loadings are 14 tonnes, which does not comply in some European countries. To overcome this problem we have designed a new all terrain with 130 tonne capacity.
"The trend of high capacity knuckle booms will rise more because knuckle booms are more flexible, faster and can work at low head room and in narrow places much better then stiff booms. Very strong knuckle booms are very rare and they are working in niche jobs."
Slightly down the capacity scale Cargotec is introducing a 58 tonne-metre model, which, again demonstrates the demand for strength at long radius. The Hiab XS 622 offers a new boom system and cylinders, improved couplings and seals, HiPro control system and variable pump as standard.
Rietz claims that even at maximum reach lateral deflection is negligible. "New technical solutions make the boom system more stable. For instance the design of the full sequence cylinders is refined to prevent the crane from unexpected jerky movements during extension or retraction. On each boom extension, a new type of side supports stabilise the boom laterally."
By mounting a Hiab Jib 150 X on the crane, the load can be placed in spots previously inaccessible for a crane this size, adds Rietz. In the most powerful configuration the maximum outreach will be 32 m, while the jib can be angled at 25 degrees upwards. "Installation and roofing are examples of work where you benefit from longer outreach and higher precision," says Rietz. "Thanks to new couplings, new seals and optimised piping diameters ensuring that the gear is kept cool, Hiab XS 622 has less risk of leakage and longer service life."
E-link and the HiPro control system are standard and will automatically generate the extra capacity needed for heavy lifts up close, says the company. By fitting a P-boom the crane will be suited for loading and unloading boats, mobile offices and containers. "The main benefit is the light weight with this capacity. This is really something the market has not seen before. The crane can be installed on a lighter or smaller truck, but the operator will still be able to take full advantage of the crane's high capacity. In addition, the crane is really smooth and precise, even at long outreach," concludes Rietz.
Austria-based Palfinger has launched the Single Link Plus High Performance loader crane in two ranges, again designed for maximum flexibility. The Single Link Plus system offers a 15 degree reverse linkage knuckle boom as an upgrade to the crane geometry in single link designs. The company says it is responding to increased customer requests for truck-mounted cranes with easy, profitable use.
The cranes are available in the 20 to 23 and 24 to 27 tonne-metre ranges and offer a highly effective dead weight to lifting power ratio, says the company. The use of sliding elements made from synthetic material combined with KTL cathodic dip paint means the operator no longer needs to service the boom system. This not only saves time and money but also protects the environment, explains the company.
The boom's flexibility also allows work to be carried out in cramped conditions and over obstacles. "Load handling in halls or lifting operations between ceiling girders or through door openings are no problem," says a company spokesman.
In the 20 to 23 tonne-metre range the PK 20001 and PK 23001-EH can have up to six hydraulic extensions. Both cranes have an hydraulic outreach of 17.1 m. The PK 20001 has a lifting moment of 20 tonne-metres, while the PK 23001-EH has a 22.2 tonne-metre rating. The PK 20001-K can have up to four hydraulic extensions, an hydraulic outreach of 12.5 m and a lifting moment of 20.2 tonne-metres.
In the 24 to 27 tonne-metre range, the PK 24001 and PK 27001-EH can have up to eight hydraulic extensions. Both cranes have an hydraulic outreach of 21.3 m. The PK 24001 has a lifting moment of 23.9 tonne-metres and the PK 27001-EH has a 26.5 tonne-metre rating. The PK 24001-K can have up to four hydraulic extensions. It has an hydraulic outreach of 12.5 m and a lifting moment of 24.1 tonne-metres.
The lightweight PK 24001-K has a short boom system suitable for handling pallets or clamshell use, says the company. The crane can be folded down quickly due to its short parking length. Across the ranges, the maximum supporting width of up to 7.4 m ensures stability, added the company.
At the lower end of the knuckle boom range Flli. Ferrari introduced its 3 tonne-metre rated 527 model. It is aimed at the Italian market and is the biggest capacity crane that can be mounted on a truck drivable using a standard road licence. It's light, compact design provides for increased payload, says the company.
Fellow Italian manufacturer PM is also concentrating on compact designs with its first-in-range 95 SP. The unit has a height of 2.49 m and is less than 2 m long when folded on an 8 x 2 or 8 x 4 truck. It will lift 10 tonnes without an integrated subframe, says the manufacturer. This is accomplished partly through the use of Weldox 1,100 and 1,200 MPa high yield strength steel.
Penny Hydraulics FV1200, V12 and V20 cranes are now available with a range of control options including fixed and pendant. The latest innovation is the fully variable pendant controller.
The USA is also demonstrating an increased interest in the knuckle boom. Although it is unlikely to take over from the mighty boom truck, any time soon, the industry is recognising its suitability for certain applications.
At the ConExpo construction equipment exhibition in Las Vegas, in March, Autogru PM introduced an 85 tonne-metre rated articulated loader crane on a 7-axle truck to provide additional payload. The PM 85028-S has an eight extension boom with up to 67 feet, 9 inches (21 metre) horizontal reach.
It was mounted on the new Kenworth T800 truck with tandem steer and three raised axles. The truck is powered by a 525 hp Cummins engine. The new 20 x 8 foot (6 x 2.4 m) flat deck design is extendable to 25 feet (7.6 m). Stefano Ghesini, PM sales director, said it is the first time an articulated loader has been mounted on a seven axle truck. It offers a payload of 23,000 pounds (10.4 tonnes).
The main applications will be in construction, precast materials and rigging. Ghesini said knuckle booms are becoming increasingly popular and, as rental companies replace their fleets, he expects sales to rise. "Customers are now understanding the advantages," he says.
Another USA-based company to expand its range at ConExpo was Iowa Mold Tooling Co. (IMT), with its 47 tonne-metre rated model. The 47/326 continues the industry trend of providing greater lift and reach. It is also an alternative to service trucks and boom trucks in the USA, according to the company. It offers 9.81 tonnes capacity at a 15 feet 1 inch (4.6 m) radius.
The mid-capacity model joins IMT's range, offering 1,740 pounds (790 kg) to 38,185 pounds (17,320 kg) ratings at 14 feet 5 inches (4.4 m) radius. Steve Fairbanks, IMT president, said the 47 tonne-metre crane is an example of the flexible general use crane the industry is asking for. "The new crane offers our customers the lift and reach capabilities they requested, while providing the safety, dependability and reliability they've come to expect from IMT."
It has a dual power plus link arm system (DL), suited for long reaches and lifting to height with a fly jib. In addition, the DL system provides precise and regular movements in the entire working area, adds the company.
Another feature is "over-bending," which means the working area between the main boom and the outer boom is no less than 195 degrees. "Over-bending offers greater flexibility when working through narrow passages and under overhead obstructions, the ability to lift maximum loads in all boom positions, and a lower total height when the crane is stowed on the truck."
Looking worldwide, Penny Hydraulics sums up the near future, "Design trends will be to remove cost and weight along with further developments in control systems. The customer expects more for less and we must continue to meet their expectations," says Richard Short at Penny Hydraulics.
Another trend is aesthetics. Truck manufacturers are putting more and more effort into the look and design of the vehicles. This is a trend that is coming directly from the car industry. The trend can also be seen among the users, truck owners and crane operators are interested in customising and personalising their workhorse. In principle, they want a crane with specific requirements and for certain applications, but they also want a crane that fits the truck's design and simply looks good," adds Rietz.