A Maeda mini crane at work in restricted site space

A Maeda mini crane at work in restricted site space

The mini crawler crane market is embracing its diminutive size with a host of new products and a focus on added features, accessories and high safety levels. Katherine Weir explores the market.

Buyers of mini cranes are continually looking for higher capacity models that can still manoeuvre in limited site space. To still be classed as a mini crane, however, there is a limit on the capacity that can be achieved within the size constraints.

Japanese manufacturer Maeda knows this only too well. Tony Inman, president at Maeda USA, explains, “Capacity increases are limited since machine size increases with capacity. As machine size grows, the advantages of the ‘mini’ crane are lost. The strength of the mini crane is to gain access to confined areas and limited access locations. If a mini crane grows too big chasing higher capacity, the main design feature of mini size could be lost.”

The latest models from Maeda include the MK1033CW-1 knuckle boom-type crane with an up-and-over capacity, the newest level crawler crane CC1485, and the MC815 crawler crane with an 8 tonne capacity – the most powerful crane in the Maeda range, the company said.

The MC815, unveiled in April 2016, has a 19.4 metre tip height, a new 10.4 inch multi-function touchscreen monitor and a one tonne pick and carry capacity. An option is a 1.5 tonne capacity hydraulic two section fly jib, which increases lifting height to 25.5 m and a new searcher hook, with a duty of one tonne.

Another company that understands the need for a selection of optional extras to balance out smaller capacity is Italy-based manufacturer Jekko. It has two new models which are updates of the SPD360 and the SPX1040. They have more capacity and optional hydraulic jibs.

Marco Zava, operations director at Jekko, says, “Our latest mini crawler crane models are the SPX424 and SPX1275. We increased the capacity on the 424 from 1.8 to 2.4 tonnes and also introduced a new hydraulic jib with an 800 kilogramme maximum capacity.” The SPX1275 was born as an evolution of the SPX1040, with an increased max capacity of 7.5 tonnes and a boom telescoping up to 19.3 m. Zava continues, “For this machine we developed a hydraulic jib with three extensions and 1.5 tonne max capacity, which allows a reach of 26.4 m in height.”

Unic Cranes Europe, part of the GGR Group, has a new slewing mini crawler with operator cabin at the threshold of 10 tonnes capacity. Graeme Riley, chief executive, says, “The MCC1005, a mini crawler crane with a capacity of 10 tonnes, allows us to cater for the demand for increased capacity within our specialist area of the market.”

Brennero Gru, a manufacturer based in Italy, has released two new models. The M 060 lifts 580 kg at 1.15 m and has a 4.25 m maximum boom tip height. The M 300 lifts 3 tonnes at 1.3 m and offers a maximum outreach of 3.2 m. This increases to 6.9 m with the optional hydraulic jib. Power for the M 060 is either an 8.7 kW Honda petrol engine or 2.2 kW single phase mains electric motor. The M300 has a 16.3 kW Yanmar diesel engine or the option of a 2.2 kW electric motor.

Mini growth

The main applications for the mini crane market are in glazing, curtain wall installation and other specialist lifting. The small size of the machines means that they can work on narrow construction sites with less room to manoeuvre, where other cranes could not operate.

Alberto Franceschini, export sales manager at Jekko, talks about the versatility of mini cranes. “In the centre of ancient European cities, in Asian skyscrapers and subways, or in Brazil’s oil plants, mini cranes can operate in any peculiar place.”

As Franceschini confirms, Europe is the area that has seen the biggest increase in interest for mini cranes at Jekko. “Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands are the countries where we are finding the most important improvement in terms of sales results. The USA, together with Canada, is a consolidated, strong and evolving market. Australia is also becoming a very active country that could give us some satisfying results.”

The company also sees potential with South Korea, Singapore and south east Asia, “forecasting the biggest increase in presence and sales.”

Alan Peck, sales director at Maeda dealer Kranlyft UK, says, “We haven’t had too much success in France in recent years but there has been a sudden surge in the market and, since 2015, sales have been getting stronger and stronger. We expect the whole of Europe to follow with strong growth and sales as the economies improve.”

Looking at the North American market for Maeda, Inman sees a continued expansion across the continent. “As users get more comfortable with the concept and apply it on more and more jobs, they are finding these cranes to be a time- and cost-saving tool. We are looking at anticipated expansion in the Mexico and Panama markets, where even in areas of historically lower cost labour the advantages of the mini crane are being recognised.”

Up ahead

A clear trend in this crane market is the need to offer more with each new product, less in terms of capacity and more in terms of features, accessories and safety levels. Gill Riley explains, “Diversity is key in today’s mini crane market. We strive to continually improve products, and work closely with all of our suppliers to build more versatile products to keep ahead of the competition.”

New products in the pipeline for Unic include the 2.4 tonne URW245 spider crane, which is being prepared for the European market and the conversion of the 2.9 tonne URW376 to run on deep cycle gel-filled batteries. The biggest advantage of this version is that the crane can run continually when plugged into a 110 volt power supply. The charger can charge the batteries while they are in use. Current development testing has resulted in up to 10 hours before recharging is required. Once in the working position the crane can be plugged in and work on 110 volts mains power with zero exhaust emissions.

Updated models are also on the way from Maeda, with the 4.9 tonne capacity LC785 to be replaced with the CC985 in early 2017, which is lighter. For the North American market the smaller capacity MK1033 (0.995 tonnes), already popular in Europe, will be introduced.

On what’s in development at Jekko, Franceschini says, “Among our latest products there will be an innovative pick and carry crane with 5 tonnes capacity called MPK50, which will open the door to other models with greater capacity. We are also working to increase our optional range, including manipulators for pipes, beams and glass.”

When it comes to safety, many of the crane companies are investing in operator assistance devices designed to reduce the likelihood of dangerous situations. For Maeda this includes its new safe load indicator (SLI), moment limiter and remote control system, which are safer and easier to operate, as well as auto levelling and auto boom retract features, the company said. Inman adds, “Maeda is now moving towards custom programmable systems that can offer even more versatility.”

Jekko has an electronic stability control system to prevent tipping and a virtual wall system to prevent damage to zoned areas of a site.

These safety features are part of the added extras that mini crane manufacturers are now offering. Comfortable in the niche that they occupy, the way to differentiate from the next manufacturer is with better safety features, a range of optional extras and a catalogue of models to meet varying applications.

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