Change is in the air across the all terrain crane sector

By Euan Youdale23 July 2012

A Grove GMK6300L belonging to Auckland Cranes demonstrated in a novel lifting application

A Grove GMK6300L belonging to Auckland Cranes demonstrated in a novel lifting application

Change is in the air across the all terrain sector, as manufacturers face pressure from truck cranes, the economy and emission laws, to name but three. Euan Youdale reports

Manufacturers are continuously in the process of updating their all terrain fleets. As an example, the first unit of the new 6-axle, 400 tonne capacity, Manitowoc Grove GMK6400 will be shipped before the end of the year, says Andreas Cremer, Manitowoc product manager for all terrain cranes. Partner customers are helping test the machines: two in the USA being Maxim and AmQuip, and another two in France.

A primary feature of the latest GMK series model is its enhanced Mega Wing Lift system, "We have a mega lift on the GMK6300 but it was kind of introduced later as an add-on so it didn't bring an advantage because the load chart was not really there," explains Cremer, "But the 6400 was designed right from the beginning with the mega lift in mind. It is completely self-rigging with no auxiliary crane."

The Mega Wing Lift gives an advantage of 60% over the normal load chart, Cremer says. This means it can offer 63 tonnes on the 60 metre boom compared to 38 tonnes without Mega Wing Lift.

The long boom, six axle, 300 tonne capacity GMK6300L was introduced last year, following on from the standard GMK6300. With a system length of 80 m, it is considered a long boom taxi crane, while the GMK6400 is described as heavy pick crane, particularly with mega wing lift and long luffing jib of 79 m, says Cremer.

On show

Moving up the capacity scale, Liebherr-Werk Ehingen presented its new LTM 1750-9.1 all terrain crane (announced in IC July 2011, page 23) during its customer days event in June. The 750 tonne capacity machine sits between the 500 tonne LTM 1500-8.1 and 1,200 tonne LTM 11200-9.1.

A particular feature of the latest nine-axle unit is its ability to carry its complete telescopic boom on public roads. The wide-range of axle load limits around the world was a consideration in the design, says Liebherr.

With its 52 m telescopic boom, the telescopic boom Y-type guying system, and a range of lattice jibs, the crane can achieve a height under hook up to 154 m and outreach up to 112 m. The luffing fly jib can be extended in 3.5 m increments, out to 91 m. Luffing the lattice jib, up to 62 m long, can, as an option, be carried out hydraulically, which means that it can also be adjusted under load. A special auxiliary jib, with a load capacity of 56 tonnes, is also available for operation on the telescopic boom, at the fixed jib, and at the luffing jib. There are individual load capacity tables for this jib in the LICCON load moment limiting system.

The LTM 1750-9.1 travels with its full telescopic boom, the front outrigger supports, an auxiliary one at the rear, and complete hoist gear, at a gross weight of 108 tonnes, with an axle load of 12 tonnes, Liebherr says.

When the LTM 1750-9.1 arrives on site with its telescopic boom and the front outrigger supports, it can fit the rear supports itself, without the need for an auxiliary crane, with the aid of the optional additional support at the rear of the vehicle.

Power in the carrier of the LTM 1750-9.1 is from an eight-cylinder Liebherr diesel engine, rated at 450 kW and 2,856 Nm torque.

Opposite ends

There are also some interesting developments in the lower capacity range. Terex has two models in the Challenger series: the Challenger 3160 and 3180, part of a growing family up to what it once would have described as 100 tonnes capacity. The decision to designate them using the maximum load moment rating in tonne-metres is a notable one, and is paying dividends in the marketplace, according to Arndt Jahns, manager of product marketing for all terrain cranes. The 160 in Challenger 3160 refers to its tonne-metre rating and provides a much more accurate indication of the machine's overall capabilities and load chart. "It reflects the numbers you can find in the data sheets and performance specifications."

Jahns explains that there has been a trend across all manufacturers to compete by adding additional tonnage onto the name of a product to give the impression of better overall capabilities, when the maximum capacity does not provide an accurate description in the first place. "We are offering a meaningful name, not taking numbers which cannot be found in the load chart anymore," says Jahns.

"The second step is that we gave the product a name related to its concept. The Roadmaster is designed for the roads and has a commercial chassis, the Challenger is in the market because it challenges the competition regarding the 12 tonne axle load limits and, if we decide to develop future products, they will get another name related to the main concept of the crane."

Jahns says the concept is proving popular among rental companies and their customers. "The hourly rate was related to the rated capacity but this is no longer the case; the customer of our customer wants a crane that lifts the load in an adequate time at the lowest possible cost. Now our customer, the rental company, works this out in a different way, so they can send out a Challenger and that will fulfil the task, it is not dependant on the load chart."

Challenges

Outside Europe the market for cranes under 100 tonnes capacity is a difficult one, mainly due to the prevalence and relative cost advantage of the truck crane. China, Russia and South America are prime examples.

XCMG recognises the significance of the European market. It already has a 25 tonne all terrain and is developing a 55 tonner aimed at Europe. "The 55 tonne is already being tested and will be ready in one or two months. We will apply the CE certificate and then introduce it to clients in European markets," says Mr Zhang, XCMG export director for Europe.

The cranes will be distributed from XCMG Europe, a joint venture based in Poland, and mainly to Eastern European nations. The Chinese manufacturer hopes that Western Europe will take a small number, thus increasing brand awareness there. Its dealers in Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic and Turkey will concentrate on this mission.

"Our big tonnage ATs may not be so attractive to Europe because we import a lot of key components from abroad and after importation the price will be not be so competitive, but the lower tonnage, to 100 tonnes, will be suitable for European markets," Zhang says.

In its high capacity range, XCMG's 1,200 tonne machine has completed state certification and the 800 tonne model is already in regular use, says Zhang.

At the lower capacity end the hybrid concept that combines truck crane and all terrain components is gaining ground. Cremer comments, "We see the all terrain market decreasing on two and three axle cranes. If you look at the truck crane market there is an increase, but not as big as the decrease you see on the all terrain crane. That is definitely something we have to look at to find the best solution for our customers," says Cremer.

"If you look at the applications for the small cranes most of them are doing a lot of residential work. You do not always need all terrains; where customers had 10 of these ATs, now they probably need five all terrains cranes and five truck mounted cranes to the do the work," Cremer continues, "The materials at these job sites are also being brought by trucks, once they get there you do not necessarily need an AT all the time."

Global markets

The smaller capacity AT has its challenges outside Europe too. "In Brazil we have a huge import tax issue. We concentrate on the European market but also developing markets where it's easier to get in, like India and parts of Africa. We have a good experience with the small cranes, the business is still growing but below 100 tonnes it is a very difficult market in general," says Jahns.

Zhang, on the other hand, is assured of the all terrain's success, particularly in the lower capacity level. "I think all terrain cranes will continue to be popular and the truck crane will not find bigger sales [in Europe]. In the Asian market the truck crane is very popular, but in some years the all terrain crane and rough terrain crane will be popular.

Zhang adds, "In the long term, maybe 10 to 20 years, all terrain cranes in China will be, even dominant, but China still has a long way to go and the truck crane still has a lot of potential. South America is similar; in some years I think the AT and RT will take over."

Popular ranges

It is between 100 and 250 tonnes capacity where all terrain manufacturers find the majority of their business. Even in this area major changes are afoot to accommodate changing customer expectations. Manitowoc, for example, has seven models in its 5- and 6-axle ranges, but the number will be reduced.

"In the past it was easy to offer the range because it is modular, using one superstructure and one carrier, so it was easy to keep the models alive. But now we are in the process of identifying models that we might continue and we might discontinue."

One reason is that like the two-model 6-axle range, customers are looking for fewer, more flexible machines that cover a range of applications and load charts. Another is the looming emission standards to be enforced in 2014, which is proving a tough measure for manufacturers.

"Those engines are getting heavier with all the exhaust after treatment. All terrains are naturally very compact, they are made to 12 tonnes an axle, and if you have to add 500 to 600 kg, especially on one side of the crane, then you have a problem getting this crane back into 12 tonnes an axle again without losing any capacity or boom length," comments Cremer.

"There are worse problems fitting the small engines on the turntable on the superstructure. The cabin gets very challenging because we are already at the limit - if you are 20 or 30 cm wider, that's a big challenge."

Cremer continues, "Today you have the Euro IIIB cranes for many countries: South America, Africa, Asia. Now with Euro IV you have to pretty much produce two different working cranes for different markets; each 130 tonne crane, for example, will be available in two versions, with different specifications."

Complications

In time all terrains may become further complicated by cultural demands and, like the truck crane today, they may look very different depending which country you are in, whether it is China, Russia, Europe or the USA. In the USA Link-Belt launched the country's first AT aimed at the market in that country.

Rick Curnutte, Link-Belt product manager, mobile telescopic cranes, explains, "Europe is the birthplace of the all terrain crane where the emphasis on 12 metric tonnes per axle transportation was the main focus. North America is not as simple as that and this is where Link-Belt put a lot of focus during the development of the ATC-3275. The ATC-3275 is designed to meet the transport challenges of the North American market because if you move it there, you can probably move it anywhere."

The 250 tonne capacity ATC-3275 has a modular counterweight system. None of the weights are more than 22,000 pounds (9,979 kg), which allows them to be grouped together or with other components on trucks to maximise the loads. With maximum counterweight, rigging, matting, and fly extensions it is transported on four trucks.

"Unlike other all terrains, the 3275's upper engine mounts transversely to allow maximum space for the stowable fly. A 12 foot (3.7 m) heavy lift fly has lift procedures for two load lines making it perfect for tilt-up work. An optional three-piece bi-fold fly hydraulically offsets from 2 to 45 degrees. A manual, four-position offset is available as well," adds Curnutte.

With the economy in North America showing signs of growth more all terrain models will come from Link-Belt. "We have already expanded our facility to 68,700 square metres in the past six years with emphasis on all terrain and telescopic crawler production - with 104 acres, we still have plenty of room for growth. Link-Belt is obviously not going to be satisfied with one all terrain crane model so there will be additional models that will complement our line-up of mobile telescopic cranes."

Across the manufacturers, the shift to customer-led designs, rather than engineer-led designs for high-cost products like all terrains has now been made.

"We do huge investigations; hundreds of personal interviews with customers, to find out how they can make their business more efficient," says Jahns at Terex, "This is the way we want to continue at Terex. It was an engineering competition [across all the manufacturers], and now it is a customer-related competition."

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