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Tower crane

General information and history of Tower Crane

Tower crane is a kind of material handling equipment which belongs to the biggest construction machines. It's used for lifting, lowering and transporting heavy materials on construction sites, railway stations and harbours. They can work in three dimensions because of the slewing unit situated either at the bottom or on the top of the crane.

The silhouette of a tower crane resemblies a tall, long-necked bird with a big beak, hence the word "crane", originating from a bird family. In other languages like German (Kran) and French (grue) the machine is also named after the bird.

The first series tower crane made for construction industry was built in 1908 in Maschinenfabrik Julius Wolff & Co. The crane became so popular that Julius Wolff sold quickly about 10.000 units. These tall machines with a control cab on the top were perfectly suitable to work on narrow streets which in that time were dominant in European cities.

Another milestone in the tower cranes development was the invention of a fast assembly crane, made by Hans Liebherr. The German manufacturer made use of a market niche and presented his bottom-slewing crane TK-10 at the Frankfurt Trade Fair in 1949.

Tower crane

Tower crane

The state of Art of Tower Crane

A contemporary tower crane consists of a tower (usually a lattice steel mast), a jib, a counterweight and a control cab. Depending on the location of the slewing unit tower cranes are classified as top-slewing or bottom-slewing ones.

A bottom-slewing tower crane has a stewing ring near the base what enables the whole mast to rotate. In case of a top-slewing crane it's only the top part that rotates. A bottom-slewing crane is easy to erect. The entire crane is transported to the working site by a tractor unit whereas a top-slewing crane travels in parts and needs another lifting device, usually a mobile crane, to be assembled. That's why the use of top-slewing cranes is more labor- and cost-intensive. However, their advantage is the lifting capacity, higher than in bottom-slewing cranes.

The maximum height of a typical tower crane is 265 ft (80 m) without support. If a crane is tied into a building the maximum height can be even longer. The maximum reach is then 230 ft (70 m) and maximum lifting power – 18 tons. So much for an average crane but the biggest functioning tower crane, the Liebherr 4000HC 80, can lift 80 tons and has 110 m lifting height.

The well-known manufacturers of tower cranes and other heavy machinery are Comansa, Comedil, FM Gru, Jaso, Liebherr, Peiner, Potain, Raimondi, Saez and Terex.