Upscale tracks

25 April 2008

Liebherr's new 1,350 tonne capacity LR 11350 on display (lifting an LTR 1100) at the factory in Germ

Liebherr's new 1,350 tonne capacity LR 11350 on display (lifting an LTR 1100) at the factory in Germany in June. The first unit is at work in China and a second unit will also go there. Others will go

Around 20 new crawler cranes have been announced in IC over the last year or so. Close to half of those are models with telescopic booms (see the Fad or future feature in the May issue). Of the remainder, all of which have lattice booms, all but three are above 200 tonnes capacity. That means nearly ten new medium and high capacity lattice crawler models.

Substantial growth has been a feature of the crawler market as a whole worldwide in the last three years. End-users and rental companies have been waiting for the best time to re-invest in new machinery. Crawler deliveries in 2005 indicate a total market volume of around 1,100 units, according to Liebherr, which claims a market share of something between 15 and 20% of that.

Kobelco claims a worldwide total crawler market share of 33%, while in the 250 tonne class the Japanese manufacturer estimates it has a 50% share, according to Jos Verhulst at Kobelco Cranes Europe. Verhulst claims annual production at Kobelco is more than twice that of its nearest competitor and says that this year the manufacturer has increased production by up to 10%.

For 2006, Verhulst says that Kobelco Cranes Europe expects to more than double the number of cranes it sold in 2005. Recent figures indicate a further strong increase in sales for 2006, Liebherr says, between 20 and 30% worldwide. Link-Belt in the US says the market there is up 20% this year over 2005. The forecast from Terex-Demag in Germany, which specialises in high capacity crawlers, is that world demand in 2006 for crawlers above 300 tonnes capacity will be 120 units – around 20% more than 2005.

The consensus among manufacturers is that this will continue for the next two or three years before any downturn may come.

Driving the worldwide demand for larger crawlers are power generation and petrochemical expansion and renewal projects. For these what is in especially high demand are crawlers with lifting capacities of 1,000 tonnes and higher, Terex-Demag says.

In response to increasing demand Liebherr has completed a new hall for crawler manufacture at its Ehingen plant in Germany where crawler cranes of more than 300 tonnes capacity are built. The 60 m extension increases covered production area by 4,500 m2 to 160,800 m2, which should also help towards minimising delivery times, a problem for all manufacturers, especially due to component shortages.

Markets

Strongest regions, according to the major manufacturers, are Asia, the Middle East and the US. Europe is also good, where, for example, Spain and the UK are gaining, according to Terex-Demag. Liebherr's best market is Asia, mainly China but “we also see India developing very well,” the company says. The strongest relative growth is the Near and Middle East, due to the huge infrastructure projects, for example, in Dubai.

For the future, the view at Liebherr is that, “We see a slight increase for North and South America, a stronger increase for Asia, mainly for India. In Europe we do not expect demand to increase.”

China

In China, a top market for crawlers, things are changing fast. The traditionally modest crawler market has been boosted in recent years by major construction projects. In the first half of 2006, 212 crawlers were sold, according to Xuzhou Heavy Machinery, which recorded a 75% growth over the same period last year, leading the industry's growth rate by nine percentage points. In the same period Xuzhou says it also exported 22 units, or 71% of all crawler exports from China, which included two units with more than 100 tonnes capacity.

Production by Chinese manufacturers has increased from four units ten years ago to 239 units in 2005, while the total Chinese market amounted to 420 units, with an annual growth rate of 23.5%, according to Construction Machinery (CM), IC's partner magazine in China.

Even in 2005 when the industry in China suffered the impact of economic regulation to temper the growth rate, the crawler crane sector grew almost 10%, according to CM. Sales of all the large machines, however, about 180 units, were by foreign manufacturers, as these high capacity crawlers are unavailable from Chinese manufacturers.

Construction industry economic forecasting specialist, Off Highway Research, (OHR) reported that the 2005 crawler market in China is getting more competitive, with domestic manufacturers increasingly eroding the share held by importers, especially below 150 tonnes. Fushan Excavator has a 45% share and is developing its range up to 350 tonnes, OHR says.

XCMG, Sany, Zoomlion and Puyuan all increased their penetration, OHR says, while deliveries by Japanese suppliers fell because of weakening demand for cranes in the 200 to 300 tonne range. “At the same time Liebherr, Demag and Manitowoc made advances in the over 300 tonne class.”

An example of the success is that since introducing it in 1997, Liebherr says it has sold in China 22 units – almost 25% – of its 400 tonne capacity LR 1400 crawler. They are used mainly in the construction of power stations, the manufacturer says. For more details on Chinese developments in large crawlers see the box story.

Super size

Manufacturers are offering, or are being asked to develop, larger cranes to handle larger and heavier loads but they still need to be easy and economical to move around. “Crane operators and the industry in general want bigger and bigger crawler cranes without sacrificing flexibility,” explains Dr Ulrich Hamme, engineering director at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen in Germany. This flexibility that is key to the success of large crawler cranes is easy and fast transport, set up and dismantling.

At the top of Liebherr's range is the 1,350 tonne (initially projected as a 1,250 tonne) capacity LR 11350. On the potential for an even larger model, Hans-Georg Frey, managing director of Liebherr-Werk Ehingen in Germany, says, “We are now pushing this machine into the market and will take it from here. We see what the competition has done. It is natural to increase capacity. Look at the [750 tonne capacity Liebherr] LR 1750; a few years ago nobody would have thought about such machines but now this is the normal development and we will also go into the higher field. It is too early to be concrete in this regard but we are looking at the higher class to see if it makes sense. I want to look first to see if it takes off so much. These are big beasts and only a certain number of these machines are needed in the world.”

Commenting on Terex Cranes' position in the crawler sector, Steve Filipov, president, explains, “We are the market leader in crawlers in product line and in market share. We have the [Terex American] IHI from 50 to 275 tons, then the Demag takes over. Demag goes from 300 tonnes all the way up to the new model, the 3,000 ton [CC 8800 Twin]. We just sold one of those in the Middle East. We have a pretty good product line in crawlers worldwide, not only in North America. The Demag is selling well in the higher capacities.”

Bearing this out is the success of the 1,250 tonne capacity CC 8800 (now CC 8800-1) of which 12 units had been delivered by late July since the first in 2002. The CC 8800 dominates the Top ten in the Largest single crane category of the IC50 listing of the world's largest crane owning companies (IC June 2006). Four companies in the top ten have this model as their largest.

And higher capacities is where Terex-Demag's focus has been in its latest models, starting with the 400 tonne capacity CC 2400-1 announced in IC last October. Following this was a tranche of new heavy lifters announced in IC December 2005. These included the CC 5800, CC 6800, CC 8800 Twin and the CC 2800-1 NT.

The 1,000 tonne capacity CC 5800, shown in iron for the first time last November, is claimed by Terex-Demag to be the strongest in the 3 m- wide transport class. The CC 6800 is an upgrade for the CC 5800. Adding a 3.5 m wide boom increases capacity to 1,250 tonnes. Boom and jib configurations can be increased to give a maximum tip height of 260 m.

Also announced was a major upgrade, using stronger boom sections, of the 1,250 tonne capacity CC 8800, which results in a basic capacity of 1,600 tonnes on the CC 8800-1. The CC 8800 Twin combines two CC 8800s, increasing maximum capacity to 3,200 tonnes. As its name suggests, the CC 8800 Twin is a twin boom system interconnected horizontally.

Another upgrade announced by Terex-Demag last November was to raise the capacity of the 1,600 tonne CC 12600 to 2,000 tonnes by adding the containerised power train concept as for the CC 8800.

An important requirement is for crawlers to be easy to transport between jobs and easy to move around on site. Large crawlers designed specifically for easy manoeuvring on, for example, wind turbine sites, include narrow track versions of existing models. Liebherr's 400 tonne capacity LR 1400/2-W was first seen in 2004 and now, new from Terex-Demag, there is the CC 2800-1 NT, announced last November and first shown in iron last month (See News).

The new CC 2800-1 NT in the 600 tonne class can relocate on site fully rigged. The 3.8 m-wide undercarriage has front and rear outriggers and one each side for extra sideways stability and these fold up to the crane upper for narrow access. The centre of gravity, at 7.3 m, is relatively low, the manufacturer says.

Major US-based crawler manufacturer Manitowoc builds crawlers up to 907 tonnes capacity (the distinctive Model 21000 with eight crawler units), and many of its large crawler cranes work on power plant and petrochemical projects around the world. A recent example is a 600 tonne capacity (750 tonnes here with Max-er attachment) Model 18000 playing a key role in conversion work at the Torre Nord power plant in Civitavecchia, Italy. The 18000 will lift all the major components, including the steam turbines and the steel structures that support them.

Philippe Cohet, executive vice president of Manitowoc Crane Group in the EMEA region, visited the site. “Being here allows me to see just what an excellent crane the Model 18000 is for power plant work,” Cohet says. “This model has already built dozens of facilities in the Americas and Asia – on-time and on budget. Contractors in Europe are now picking up on its market-leading capabilities and the crane is continuing its global success in Europe. As the power market becomes ever more price competitive and deregulated in our region, we expect to see more of these projects.”

Another large Manitowoc crawler making a name for itself in power generation is the 16000, seen outside the US for the first time earlier this year. “The Model 16000 is fast establishing itself as the lifting industry's first choice for wind turbine installation projects,” explains Allen Kadow, MCG product marketing manager for lattice boom cranes. “As the demand for renewable energy sources grows across the world, I am certain that the Model 16000 will remain at the forefront.”

Down the range

Looking down the capacity range, new from Hitachi Sumitomo is the 275 tonne SCX 2800-2, while new from Kobelco this year is the 250 tonne capacity CKE 2500-2, an upgrade of the 2500. Last year in China Zoomlion launched the 200 tonne capacity QUY200 and, in the US, Link- Belt launched its 110 US ton capacity 218 HSL.

Further down the capacity scale another new model from China last year was the 70 tonne capacity Zoomlion QUY70. New heavy duty models include the 80 tonne capacity Hitachi Sumitomo SCX800 HD-2 and the 50 tonne capacity Liebherr HS 835 HD.

Product development in the crawler sector is continuing strongly across the capacity range. Hamme at Liebherr says “other types of crawler crane are at the development, modification or planning stages. The necessary capital expenditure and investment in personnel and materials have already been approved and implemented for the realisation of these ambitious expansion objectives.”

At the Bauma exhibition early next year manufacturers will launch their as-yet unannounced crawlers. One that IC can reveal is a new Kobelco CKE series model in the 100-110 tonne class, with retractable crawlers, that will debut in early 2007. Before that, in October, Link-Belt will unveil a new HSL series crawler in the 200 tonne class. Also in the pipeline in the 200 tonne class is a new Terex.

All in all, a healthy number of new products that illustrate the continuing popularity and value of the crawler crane concept, especially in the high capacity classes.

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