Heavy lift boom

24 April 2008

Piling specialist BPH Equipment is using a 180 tonne capacity Kobelco CKE1800 to install sheet piles

Piling specialist BPH Equipment is using a 180 tonne capacity Kobelco CKE1800 to install sheet piles as part of the work to reinforce the no.1 slipway at BAE Systems' Govan shipyard in Clydeside, near

Making Cranes Is A Global Business These days, with only a handful of manufacturers around the world offering comprehensive ranges of crawler, mobile and tower cranes. This means it is difficult to talk about Europe in isolation, because trends in other regions have ramifications here at home. By the same argument, developments in the large and mature European crane market tend to reverberate around to other parts of the world.

The key global factor at the moment is the high demand for all types of construction equipment, including cranes. There are developing world &hotspots' like China, Dubai and India, buoyant mature markets like Spain, the UK and US, and specific sectors like power generation, oil and gas that all seem to need as many cranes as they can get their hands on.

Demand is clearly outstripping supply with backlogs for some new cranes, particularly the larger units, standing at a year or more. This in turn is stimulating the market for used cranes, with prices rising and certain classes such as 60 to 100 tonne mobile cranes being very hard to come by.

It has also meant that crane manufacturers are getting much more involved in the used equipment markets. All the major players have facilities in Europe to refurbish the cranes they get as trade-ins, and because it is the manufacturers doing the renovation work, better warranties and financing packages are available. One crane owner told CE, “Buying used is almost like buying a new crane these days.”ins, and because it is the manufacturers doing the renovation work, better warranties and financing packages are available. One crane owner told CE, “Buying used is almost like buying a new crane these days.”

The involvement of global manufacturers in the used crane market also means that these used machines can end up anywhere in the world. According to Tobais Bohler, sales director for Liebherr in Spain, almost 70% of new Liebherr mobile crane sales involve part exchange on an old machine. Interestingly, the best export destination for these used units is India, a buoyant construction market, but one where price sensitivity is a serious barrier to the sale of brand new machines.

European Hotspots

Many manufacturers would put Spain at the top of the list of growth markets in Europe. The country's on-going investment in infrastructure has seen civil engineering work boom over the last 10 years or so, and the focus on road and rail links has meant good times for crane suppliers.

Wolfgang Pfister of Liebherr-Werk Nenzing told CE, “Spain has been an extraordinarily vital market for crawler cranes over the last few years. There has been a huge demand for, especially duty cycle crawler crane for foundation work.”

Similarly, the UK and Ireland have been consistently strong construction markets for more than a decade. Although non-residential construction, which is a key sector for tower cranes, probably peaked some four to five years ago, the all-important civil engineering sector remains up-beat, which is good for the mobile and crawler crane sectors. The London Olympics in 2012 is of course expected to deliver even more lifting work, thanks to the construction of the venues and the associated infrastructure.

Sales in Germany however are certainly not what they were 10 years ago. The construction industry has been in decline since the post-reunification building boom, and demand for cranes remains very weak. However, the major Germany-based manufacturers - Grove, Liebherr, Tadano-Faun and Terex-Demag - say they're stretched to capacity trying to fulfil export orders. Building cranes is a global business these days.

Italy has also been singled-out by some industry watchers as a buoyant market, and again this is linked to major civil engineering projects, particularly the construction of high-speed rail links. But it is not only this traditional type of transport infrastructure that is stimulating the lifting sector. Tadano Faun has recently enjoyed some significant sales successes in Norway. A company spokesman told CE, “The market in Norway is particularly influenced by projects in the oil industry, predominantly in the bigger crane sizes.”

Norway may be one of the smallest construction markets in Europe, but given the current climate of high commodity prices and the fact that Norway is second only to Saudi Arabia as a net exporter of oil, Tadano Faun's comments are perhaps not as surprising as they first seem.

Wind Power

The energy sector in general is proving to be an interesting driver in the industry. In particular, the increasing popularity of wind energy in Europe has lead to the development of some interesting cranes that have the high vertical reach and high lift capacities needed to place turbines and blades on top of tall pylons.

But high performance is not the only issue. Wind farms are often sited at on in remote locations or on hill tops and to take advantage of the high winds at these raised altitudes. Such sites can often be difficult to access, so transportation issues such as the width of the crane and its climbing ability are also important for this new generation of heavy lifters.

The three key players in the heavy lift end of the crawler crane market are Liebherr, Manitowoc and Terex-Demag, and all three have recently launched cranes specifically for wind turbine erection.

Liebherr's LR1400/2-W has been on the market for two years, and is a narrow track version of the 400 tonne capacity LR 1400. The transportation width is 4,8 m (governed by the crawler chassis width) and when set up for lifting the star-shaped outriggers take the footprint to 11,5 m wide by 14,2 m long. The maximum permissible main boom is 119 m, and various boom and jib configurations mean lifting heights of more than 130 m can be achieved.

Manitowoc's Model 16000 will be on show in Europe for the first time at this month's Intermat exhibition. Like Liebherr's new crawler, it is a 400 tonne capacity unit, with a maximum lift height of 132 m. A key option is the 95 tonne capacity short jib that gives the configuration needed for wind turbine applications.

The Terex-Demag 600 tonne capacity CC 2800-1 NT (narrow track) has an undercarriage just 3,8 m wide to which outriggers can be added for stability during lifting. Maximum lift height is 138 m, and the crane can cope with a 125 tonne load on 90 m of boom.

The narrow track version is derived from the CC 2800-1, and this crane is available with the &S-7' kit to adapt it to the specific requirements of wind turbine erection. The kit consists of one or more reinforced boom sections, that allow longer boom lengths to be used or greater loads to be lifted.

It's not just crawler cranes that are being designed with the wind sector in mind. Liebherr is developing a nine-axle, 1000 tonne capacity mobile crane, designated LTM 11000.9-1. The crane is not expected to be launched until the Bauma 2007 exhibition, to be held in Munich, Germany, next April, but rumour has it that the unit will be available with two telescopic boom options, one 60 m version, and a shorter version for use with a luffing jib.

Vertical reach and higher lifting capacities will be crucial in this sector, as pylons get taller, blades get bigger and turbines get more powerful (and therefore heavier). Each component presents a different challenge. Blades are relatively light at less than 20 tonnes but, at up to 60 m long, are very difficult to handle.

By contrast the turbines are compact, but with generation capacities of 4 or 5 MW the assembly that has to be lifted can weigh up to 170 tonnes. Not an easy task when the hub height of the Europe's newest and biggest &windmills' is around 120 m.

New Cranes

Besides the top of the range heavy lifters that have been introduced for the wind power sector, there are plenty of new cranes coming onto the market in Europe. This is partly in response to the introduction of Stage IIIA emission laws for 130 to 560 kW diesel engines, and partly because the general cycle of product renewal means new models are due. As a result, the last 12 months has seen an unusually high number of significant new models being launched, and there will be more to see at this month's Intermat exhibition in Paris, France.

New from Kobelco is the 250 tonne capacity CKE2500-2, an upgraded version of what the company claims is the best-selling crawler crane in the world. According to European sales manager, Jos Verhulst the company is riding high on the current boom in the crane market.

“Kobelco has endorsed its position as the leading supplier of crawler cranes in the world for the third year running, having delivered well over 400 cranes worldwide in 2005. Based on current level of orders already received, the company expects to double the number of cranes delivered in Europe this year,” he said.

Kobelco's main rival in this capacity class is fellow Japanese manufacturer Hitachi-Sumitomo. The company will be launching the SCX 2800-2 at Intermat, a 275 tonne capacity lattice boom crawler unit.

Both companies also have new 80 tonne capacity&duty cycle' cranes (for foundation construction) coming out. Kobelco's is the BME800HD, which replaces the previous 75 tonne machine, while Hitachi-Sumitomo's is the SCX 800HD-2. Liebherr also has a new duty cycle crane on the market, the 50 tonne capacity HS 835 HD, which will be on show at Intermat.

Crawler cranes are usually fitted with lattice booms, but there are also a few models on the market with mobile crane-style telescopic booms. These tend to be around the 40 tonne capacity mark, and new models in the last year or so include Hitachi-Sumitomo's 40 tonne SCX400T and the 44 tonne Terex-Bendini TCC 45. More recently though, Liebherr has unveiled the LTR 1100, a 100 tonne capacity telescopic boom crawler.

The obvious advantage is that a telescopic boom is much quicker to set up and rig than a lattice boom that has to be assembled from multiple sections. On the other hand, a telescopic boom will usually be heavier and more expensive than the same capacity lattice boom. This has meant that lattice boom crawler cranes have had the advantage in the past, because they usually stay on sites for long periods of time, so the longer set-up time tends not to be significant overall.

However, there are situations when the rough terrain and pick and carry capabilities of a crawler crane and the fast cycles of a telescopic boom would be a useful combination. Liebherr has identified niches such as road and railway bridge construction, where a crane might have to regularly &duck' under overhead obstructions such as bridges or power lines over the course of the project.

Lifting capacity is the key here, and Liebherr has genuinely broken new ground with the LTR 1100, which will be able to lift useful loads at reasonable reaches. It comes with a six-section 52 m boom, and the load chart shows it can lift 32,3 tonnes at 10 m radius. The existing 40 tonne class machines on the market are only capable of loads around 8 tonnes at similar horizontal reaches.

MOBILES

In addition to all these crawler cranes, Europe's manufacturers have been rolling out a wide range of mobile cranes over the last 12 months. New from Grove is the 80 tonne all-terrain GMK4080-1, a four axle unit that replaces the GMK4075-1. It has a six-section, 51 m telescopic boom, and the maximum tip height is 75 m with the 6 m luffing jib extension. The key selling point of the crane is its strong lifting and reach capabilities - it can pick up a load of 6,6 tonnes at the full 51 m extension, at a radius of 20 m - and its compact size. It is 12,5 m long, 265 mm shorter than the GMK4075-1.

Also new from Grove is the five-axle GMK5220, a 220 tonne capacity all-terrain with a seven-section, 68 m boom. It can lift 13 tonnes at 24 m, with the boom fully extended, and the maximum tip height is 105 m with the addition of a 19 tonne capacity luffing jib.

Last summer saw Tadano Faun launch the 65 tonne capacity, four axle ATF 65G-4 all terrain, which replaces the 60 tonne ATF 60-4. The &G' in the designation number stands for &global', and signifies the company's efforts to design cranes that meet all the various regulations around the world for carrier width, axle spacing and loading and overhangs. This is an important consideration in the increasingly global used crane market.

Around the same time Terex-Demag launched the AC 160-2 all terrain. An upgrade of the AC 160-1, the 160 tonne capacity machine has a 64 m boom that can be lengthened to 96 m with a four-section extension kit. Although both booms are longer than their predecessor's, the carrier length has been cut down slightly to 12,3 m.

The start of this year saw the company upgrade the 55 tonne AC 55 to AC 55-1. The key improvement is a new boom telescoping unit that brings faster set-up times and higher lifting capacities to the new model. For example, with the boom extended to 40 m, and at a 10 m radius, the lifting capacity is +20% greater than on the out-going machine.

New at the lighter end of Liebherr's all terrain range is the two-axle, 40 tonne capacity LTM 1040-2.1, a new class of crane for the company that sits in between its existing (two axle) 30 and (three axle) 45 tonne units. At 35 m, the four-section boom is 5 m longer than that of the LTM 1030-2.1, and offers an average of +7% more lifting capacity than the smaller crane. The company has also launched a 200 tonne, five axle all terrain, the LTM 1200-5.1, which has a seven-section, 72 m boom.

In The Iron

Many of these new cranes will be on display at the Intermat exhibition, held at the end of this month in Paris. It will be a great opportunity to compare competing models, particularly as there are a few cases where manufacturers have launched new machines in the same or very similar lifting classes. This should help buyers gain a little more leverage in negotiating a purchase, but besides the price, service contract and financing package, a particularly pertinent question to put to manufacturers will be “When can you deliver?”

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