Crawlers leading the way

By Euan Youdale22 October 2012

There has been a number of notable crawler crane launches this year. At its Customer Days event in June, Liebherr-Werk Ehingen introduced the 220 tonne capacity LTR 1220 telescopic crawler crane. The model establishes this capacity range as one of the most important and adaptive in the crawler market. “Several customers asked us to analyse the design of a larger telescopic crawler crane above our 100 tonne LTR 1100. From the beginning the focus was set on transportability and the possibility of self-assembly,” explained Wolfgang Beringer, spokesman for the Liebherr manufacturing division in Ehingen, Germany.

One main area of use for the LTR 1220 is the installation of prefabricated components. With a 3.4 m long erection jib and a second hoist gear, installation work can be carried out in two-hook operation. The crane is also suitable for use as an auxiliary crane for wind turbine erection on long-term construction sites in energy or infrastructure projects. Despite its uses, however, there are no immediate plans for a further model in the range, says Beringer.

Another developing range is in the 600 to 1,000 tonne class. Terex looks likely to produce a 600 tonne capacity class crane, possibly a successor to the popular CC 2800-1 lattice boom crawler, although there were no official details about this from the manufacturer at the time of writing in late September. Liebherr says a new 800 to 1,000 tonne crawler, sitting between the existing LR 1750 and the LR 11350 models, is under development, and is scheduled to be presented at the Bauma 2013 exhibition in Germany, April 2013.

Moving up the capacity range, one of Terex’s great successes, the 1,600 tonne capacity CC 8800, (or CC 8800-1 Twin, with Twin kit), continues to perform well. Two sales this year demonstrate the crane’s popularity and demonstrate the strength of the markets they are entering. One of them went to Turkey-based crane services giant Sarilar, taking the mantle of biggest crane in the country.

The CC 8800, bought through Terex distributor DAS Otomotiv, was ordered with a main boom of 108 m and a 108 m fly jib. Sarilar will initially use the crane in Turkey and the Middle East. Hanifi Gürbüz, Sarilar group chairman, said, “We are preparing to lead the sector in projects in Turkey, such as the construction of wind energy installations, dams, nuclear power plants, bridges and refineries. We want to keep the national funds of the country within our borders.” The company will also add a new Liebherr LR 1350/1 lattice crawler to its fleet in 2012.

Australian lifting and transport specialist Tutt Bryant has introduced its first CC 8800-1 into the country. It will operate as the largest conventional crawler crane based in the country, the company said, continuing that it was a “game-changing addition to Tutt Bryant’s extensive portfolio of cranes and heavy lifting equipment.” The company said it offers efficiencies in the erection and installation of large-scale facilities when compared to ring lift cranes and jacking towers. The CC 8800-1’s first commissioning will be at a BP cracker in Western Australia.

Up top

Leaping to the top of the capacity range, Liebherr also made a show of its 3,000 tonne capacity LR 13000 lattice boom crawler at its Customer Days event. The first unit has been sold to Mammoet, and has just been erected at a refinery near Chicago, USA. The second unit is now on the Liebherr test field. While the LR 13000, along with its contemporaries like the 3,200 tonne capacity Terex CC 8800-1 Twin and XCMG’s 3,600 tonner, are very much positioned in the capacity range of fixed-based ring cranes, there is no competition between the two crane types, says Beringer.

“It is focused on a different market segment with its own spectrum of applications. The fixed-based ring cranes are stronger, but our conventional LR 13000 has the advantage of pick-and-carry operation.”

The LR 13000 can travel with a full load or, if space is limited at the site, it can be assembled outside and can travel in fully erected. Competition between the conventional lattice boom crawlers is not on a level playing field either, says Beringer. “The purchasing price is not the only decisive value. We offer our customers a complete package of added value, like customer support, service, reliability, availability, recoverability, marketability of used cranes, etc.”

Mr Zhang, XCMG export director for Europe, is in agreement over the range-topping crawler’s international scope. “One is now in use in China in a nuclear power plant – there is just the one so far and it is aimed at China,” Zhang adds, “This is just the beginning, in several years we might be able to introduce it with CE marking to other countries.”

Now on offer with CE marking is XCMG’s 150 tonne capacity lattice boom crawler from its subsidiary assembly base in Poland, which is to be used as a springboard to the rest of Europe. There are now two CE-marked models waiting to find customers and there are plans to raise that offering to include the 450 tonner.

“In Eastern Europe the potential is very big, especially in the former Yugoslavia where infrastructure is very backward. I hope in two or three years the crisis will be finished and we can aim at some Western countries too.”

North Africa and the Middle East are targets too but they will be catered for from XCMG’s new factory in China, under its workshop transformation scheme. It also has a factory under construction in Brazil, to be completed in the next three years. According to Zhang cranes, including crawlers, will be assembled there from Chinese and locally-produced components. India is next on XCMG’s radar, with the company now looking for a joint venture opportunity in the country across many of its product lines, including crawlers.

At the moment Brazil stands as XCMG’s largest export market for crawlers, followed by Russia and the Middle East. “Business is quite good in Russia, with 80 to 150 tonne crawlers being the most popular, and 350 to 650 tonnes becoming more popular,” explains Zhang.

Kobelco Cranes is active in India too. Last year it launched its first model designed for the Indian market, the CKL1000i. Kobelco finished building its production plant in Andhra Pradesh, India, earlier this year. “The new production plant will be able to grasp market needs and respond rapidly with the production of crawler cranes in the over-100 tonne class – the advantages of local production in the Indian market,” says a company spokesman.

Japanese manufacturer Kobelco’s interest in other emerging markets was demonstrated by the launch of the S series of crawler cranes in November 2011. They are aimed at world markets, excluding Japan, Europe and North America. Comprising 10 models, the S series consists of crawler cranes from Kobelco’s CKS, BMS and 7000S series. Kobelco first announced the seven CKE and BME models from 60 to 250 tonnes capacity at the ConExpo exhibition, Las Vegas in March 2011. The company then officially extended its offering with the G-Series versions, with CE marking, at the Intermat 2012 exhibition in Paris, France. Designed as flexible machines suitable for all relevant applications, the updated series also boasts energy saving functions, referred to in the G-Series name. The S series has been upgraded and improved from the customer’s point of view, says Kobelco, with safety, reliability and efficiency in mind. “They have been created from end-user feedback and real jobsite experiences, to make them transportation friendly, assembly friendly and operator friendly,” said a spokesman.

Despite this, revenues at Kobelco Cranes fell 19.3% in the first quarter of the fiscal year from April to June 2012, to JPY 9.5 billion (US$ 122 million). The company said unit sales were up compared to a year ago, thanks to improving the demands of reconstruction work in Japan, along with a market recovery in North America and South East Asia. It said, however, that changes in the types of cranes being sold had led to the downturn in revenues.

Signs that the USA is in recovery mode are not restricted to Kobelco. Increased demand for crawler, rough terrain and heavy tower cranes in the second quarter of 2012 has pushed revenue and gross profit up for Essex Rental Corp. The North American company reported total revenue of $ 27.2 million for the three months ended 30 June 2012, a 21.7% increase from $ 22.3 million for Q2, 2011.

Crawler crane utilisation at Essex increased to 39.4% in the second quarter of 2012. Looking ahead, Ron Schad, Essex president and CEO, expects rental demand to remain high, particularly from infrastructure and maintenance related energy projects.

“The expected duration of new crawler crane orders year to date through July has increased 15.5% compared to the prior year’s orders. The increased average crawler crane lease duration is providing greater visibility and, if this trend continues, is likely to have a positive impact on utilisation for the remainder of 2012 and 2013,” explains Schad.

In many cases companies are giving crane users more options, rather than buying a new crane. An example comes from USA-based Manitowoc, which has introduced the Boom Raise System to accommodate longer boom lengths for installing nacelles on 100 m tall wind turbines without the need for an assist crane.

The system, developed for the 400 tonne (440 US ton) capacity Manitowoc 16000, allows end users to work with 107 m (351 feet) of boom plus 7.6 m (25 feet) of extended upper boom. The load capacity is 87.9 tonnes (96.8 US tons). Using a large hydraulic cylinder housed in a special 3 m boom insert section attached to the boom, the boom raising cylinder works with the boom hoist by exerting an upward force on the boom.

It adds to the fixed jib option for the Model 16000, which in turn complements the luffing jib attachment, introduced in Bauma 2010. The jib has 93 tonnes capacity and a maximum length of 42.7 m. At a length of 24.4 m the fixed jib can be installed on a 72 m main boom.

The company recently sold four of the wind attachments to Amrik Singh in India. “When we started with the 16000 back in 2005, it was a little before the wind energy industry had taken off particularly in North America and we got to a stage where the nacelles were getting heavier, especially for 80 m high tower work, so we came out with the wind attachment, with a heavier boom, and this enabled us to lift, at short radii, about 49% more,” explains Jerry Maloney, global product director at Manitowoc Cranes.

“With just a few modifications to the base machine the customer is able to use the 16000 for more and more jobs and doesn’t have to go to the 600 tonne. I think we are probably at the limit of the 400 tonne, so then once the towers go higher, to 120 m, they will probably have to move up to an 18000.”

For a while 400 tonnes was the most popular capacity for crawlers in the USA, but now there is increased interest in the 250 to 350 tonne capacity range, says Maloney, “Infrastructure has been picking up in the second half of the year here.”

Attachments and capacity enhancement systems have been making the headlines for other manufacturers in the last 12 months. From Liebherr they include the new Power Boom for the LR 13000 and LR 11350, the SL12 system for the LG 1750, and extended travelling possibilities for narrow track crawler cranes. “The target of the development of the PowerBoom was to extend the spectrum of applications of a crane model. As first crane jobs with the P-boom show, this target was more than achieved. So we generally evaluate the option of a PowerBoom configuration on all new developments in the class of larger crawler cranes,” explains Beringer.

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