Looking at your self

8 August 2019


As the market for self-erectors has been buoyant in recent years, manufacturers have invested in enhancing and updating their ranges. Sotiris Kanaris reports.

Self-erecting cranes are known for their fast erection and versatility in use. Their owners also appreciate the ability to transport some of them on the road as complete units at highway speeds up to 80km/h.

Their compactness and manoeuvrability allows them to be used for a wide range of applications, from building small houses to infrastructure projects.

The European market is the main market for self-erector manufacturers, with differences in demand from country to country. A general observation is that in Northern European markets they tend to go for larger units compared to the Southern European ones.

Labeling self-erectors as a purely European product would be a mistake, as there is a big number of units operating around the world, with the North American market being a target market for many manufacturers.

Liebherr has a long history in the production of this crane type, as its first model—the TK 10—was designed in 1949. Since then, the company’s self-erectors have been constantly evolving.

“Liebherr developed the K crane series at the beginning of 1960s. We then produced the first fast-erecting cranes on crawlers in 1978. At the beginning of the 1990s the SE series was designed: the first hydraulic fast erecting crane in the Liebherr range. Out of the SE cranes, the H series was created in 2001. The mobile version HM followed soon in 2002. Out of the H range the L1 series was designed,” says Hans- Martin Frech, marketing director at Liebherr-Werk Biberach.

Over the years, the manufacturer has added features that facilitate transportation, erection and capacity. “Features like Micromove, the fine positioning mode, speed to lift, the pure two-fall operation or the load plus function—through which you can have up to 20% more tip load—are useful features for our modern fast erecting cranes.”

The most popular Liebherr selferecting crane is the 81 K.1, but the 65 K.1 and the 53 K also enjoy strong demand. “Over the last five years we have sold about 2,500 units of these machines. These models are very popular because they are easy and safe to erect, have a customised performance and reliable technology. The working radius and the lifting capacities are similar to a small top slewing crane,” Frech says.

One of the latest Liebherr selferectors is the 125 K, which the manufacturer calls the largest of its type. The 125 K has a 55m jib length, 8t maximum capacity and a 65m maximum hook height. “The 125 K has the performance of a small top slewing crane with all the benefits of a fast erecting crane. The need of the market gave us the clear signal that this machine is needed,” says Frech.

Liebherr has recently launched the L1-32, which has a 4t capacity, maximum hook height of 21.3m and maximum radius of 30m. Because of its size, the L1-32 cannot be transported with full ballast, but Liebherr found an interesting solution: customers are able to erect the crane with part of the ballast, the amount they can transport on their first trip to the job site. With the reduced ballast, the maximum load and tip load is the same as the fully balasted crane; the only difference is that the maximum load can be lowered one metre less. Frech says through this solution, customers do not lose time on the job site.

“In the following transport when the crane is fully ballasted the customers have all the features which the crane offers,” he adds.

Another interesting development by Liebherr is the new LiTRAX high-speed axle system. It is suitable for modular use in various combinations. All sizes of Liebherr self-erecting cranes can be transported using a semi trailer or a truck and trailer combination.

“With only one axle our customers save money in their rental fleet. The modular system of this axle is so flexible that the customer can combine the axles corresponding to the transported crane. According to the crane size the new axle can be easily configured as a normal axle or a tandem axle. To be flexible on the job site you can lift the axle up to 30cm,” Frech explains.

Fellow German manufacturer Eurogru also has self-erectors in its portfolio, offering to the market three lines, the DS, E, and SM.

The DS cranes are designed as a trailer and towed as a unit, complete with ballast and accessories. The standard features are: galvanised structure elements, low transport height, frequency controlled slewing mechanism, small turning radius and remote control. These cranes can be transported with highway speeds of up to 80 km/h.

The Eurogru E series cranes are fully hydraulic, have a small footprint and transport dimensions for better manoeuvrability on the construction site. The capacities vary from 1.6t to 4t, and jib lengths from 16m to 44.75m. At Bauma the company exhibited the E 34.10, which has a maximum height under hook of 24m. It features the new two rope hoisting system, instead of four ropes, and it is capable of lifting 4t.

The SM cable set-up cranes have a higher hook height and a greater capacity than comparable Series E cranes. They are offered as telescopic or climbing tower systems. The hook heights range up to 35m and the maximum load capacities up to 6t. At the Bauma stand attendees saw the SM 35.10, which has a maximum capacity of 4t, maximum jib length of 35m, where it can lift 1t. It has a 3.8x3.8m case, 2m radius and can reach a maximum height under hook of 29.3m.

History and innovation

Manitowoc’s Potain has been manufacturing self-erector cranes for over half a century. “In the 1950s we had already started manufacturing telescopic cranes: the 205 in 1957 is one of the first crane of this kind. As of today, the oldest line is the Igo range, launched in 2001; more specifically the Igo 15 and Igo 18,” says Thibaut Le Besnerais, global product director for tower cranes.

Over the decades, new technologies have significantly improved, among other things, safety and speed of set up. “From the original, expertly-engineered cranes with ropes and pulleys that were a real innovation in the 1950s, we have evolved towards hydraulic technology and frequency variation in the 90s. Then, with the Igo release, we introduced the integrated radio control that helped the set-up and operating of the crane. With our latest ranges, the crane control system (CCS) has provided even more comfort, safety and productivity,” Le Besnerais adds.

The manufacturer currently has four different series of selferecting cranes: Hup, Igo, Igo M, Igo T. The most popular models, depending on locations, are the Hup 40-30, Igo T 85 and Igo M 14. According to Le Besnerais, the reasons behind the popularity of these models are their large size and that they are the ones with the greatest mobility assets in the portfolio.

A few months ago, Manitowoc’s manufacturing facility in Charlieu, France, shipped its 1,000th Igo T 85. The landmark self-erecting crane was sold to a customer in the Benelux region. The Igo T 85 was launched in 2008 and in 2011, an upgraded model—the Igo T 85 A—was developed to include a third additional mast section and new slewing system, reaching 38 m height under hook. The IgoT 85 A has a 45m jib radius and maximum capacity of 6t.

At Bauma, Potain presented the upcoming Hup M 28-22, which it says offers best in class compactness. The model is only 11.5m long when folded, enabling work in narrow, restricted job sites, as well as making it easy to transport from site to site.

“The Hup M 28-22 also features the most advanced transport equipment with double steering axles,” adds Le Besnerais. “The Hup M 28-22 has a 28m jib and features 16 configurations, which is unique to this category of self-erecting cranes, enabling it to be easily adapted for a range of job site applications.” The crane has a maximum capacity of 2.2t and can lift 850kg at its 28m maximum jib end.

Historically the strongest markets for Potain self-erectors have been in Europe, more specifically France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. “We think the market will stay more or less stable in the coming years, with the same countries in Europe providing the majority of the demand,” Le Besnerais says.

Despite launching new products, innovation continues at Potain. “The Hup M is one of our key developments to get mobility on jobsites and adds greater versatility to the Hup Concept. We will focus on expanding that product in the near future,” Le Besnerais concludes.

Dutch company Montarent offers the Montalift self-propelled 4-WDS cranes, which give owners the ability to move the cranes in fully-erected position. The mobile self-propelled undercarriage provides maximum mobility on site locations with four-wheel drive and steering.

Richard Blokker, one of Montarent’s owners, highlights the compactness of the machines, with the small ballast radius and undercarriage. He also says it offers fast set up and positioning and that it is very economic by using a 400 V - 3 x 25A power supply.

“The prototype of our selfpropelled undercarriage was developed in 1997 when we built production number 13, a Montalift 193 S 4-WD for a renovation project in our city Beverwijk, the Netherlands. During more than a year this crane concept was thoroughly tested in practice given us the feedback for further development,” says Blokker.

Over the years, the company added more power in the electromechanical four-wheel drive system, also the acceleration and deceleration became smoother through the use of an inverter drive. “A second drive speed was added when moving it over a larger distance in transport position. For maximum manoeuvrability on location we added the four-wheel drive option,” he adds.

The latest model is the Montalift M21 4WDS, introduced in October 2016, which was developed in cooperation with Potain. The M21 4-WDS is a combination of the superstructure of the Igo MA 21 with Montarent’s 4-WDS selfpropelled undercarriage.

With a slew radius of 2.13m and undercarriage length of 6.7m, it is a compact crane ideal for small and confined building locations. The first export order for the M21 4WDS was from Denmark, where the crane has been used on various building jobs.

Blokker says: “Since March this year we have a M21 4WDS from our rental fleet on a project where prefabricated wooden houses are built and just recently we sold the first M21 4WDS in the United Kingdom to our dealer Ladybird. Appointing Ladybird as our sole distributor in the United Kingdom was a logical step as they are already representing the Potain brand for many years and are offering sales, hire and service.”

He adds that through the cooperation with Manitowoc, Montarent has gained the access to their sales network. “This resulted in exporting seven units until now to our dealer in the USA, Stephenson Equipment,” Blokker says.

Montarent is currently in the stage of developing new and larger models up to 32m jib length.

Made in Spain

Spanish manufacturer Saez has the H series of self-erectors, which consists of five models with capacities from 1.5t to 4t. Sales representative Juan Ballester says the models are designed to be erected quickly and easily. “Our self-erectors can normally be erected completely in less than an hour. For road transport, we are working on road axles for them to move at 80km/h in Europe and at 80mph in North America,” he says.

The most popular model is the 4t H 32 DR, but Ballester expects the upcoming model HT 45.14 to be an even bigger commercial success.

The HT 45.14 telescopic selferectoe will have a 45m jib. Featuring two-fall technology, this model will have a maximum capacity of 6t and will be able to lift 1.4t at tip end.

“This crane will be able to reach 38m of hook height without having to de-rate the load chart, and also to work in both single phase and three phase. It will incorporate a well-tested radio diagnosis system—using a SIM card—and also the same Schneider zoning system that we have been installing in our flat-top cranes for the last two years,” Ballester said.

Saez is working to update its H 24, H 28 and H 32 models by replacing the old-type square stainless steel cabinets with new fibre ones. There will also be a change of electronics, with the installment of PLC and zoning systems.

Ballester says the strongest markets for Saez self-erectors are France and Germany, but he expects that with the introduction of the HT 45-14 the US will become one of the biggest markets. He also tells Cranes Today that they are currently developing the hydraulic H 45.

Italian tailoring

The biggest concentration of selferector manufacturers is in Italy, a country with a strong reputation and tradition in tower crane production. Despite the fall in local demand, Italian manufacturers have been developing new products in the past few years tailored for international markets.

Terex’s self-erecting tower cranes are manufactured at its facility in Fontanafredda, alongside the rest of its tower crane lines.

The CBR line of self-erectors consists of five models, with capacities of 1t to 4t and maximum jib length from 21m to 40m. The newest model is the CBR 24, which has a maximum capacity of 2t, maximum jib length of 24m and capacity at maximum reach of 0.75t.

Fabio Di Minico, technical leader, self-erecting, at Terex, says the most popular model is the CBR 32, which has a maximum capacity of 4t and maximum jib length of 32m. “It is a well-balanced model in the middle segment that is very common in different markets.”

In terms of what self-erector owners are looking for, he says: “First of all, cranes need to be reliable and easy to maintain. They need to get to the job site and be erected quickly. At the same time, demand for increased hook height and capacity is a general trend. The way we look at new machines is ‘nothing more, nothing less.’”

Terex plans to renew its complete product offering and will launch new models to the market this year. “New regulations [update of the norm EN 14439] will impact the business, and customer’s needs are evolving. But what is clear to us is that we should not compromise on our concept for self-erecting cranes: simple, efficient and reliable. Whoever buys from us needs to get a good return on investment,” Di Minico says.

He tells Cranes Today that the new offering will look at maintenance and quick erection. A big focus will also be given to electronic crane controls, with proven and reliable components.

“We are working on the new hydraulic range and we will see the first results this year, but we are also looking to grow our product offering to compete on the biggest self-erecting product segment,” adds Di Minico.

He points out that in Northern Europe there is a much higher demand for big self-erecting cranes than Southern Europe. Terex’s strongest markets are Germany, Belgium, France and Italy.

Italian crane manufacturer FB Gru has nine models of self-erectors in its portfolio with capacities of 1–4t and jib length ranging from 20–43m.

The newest model, which is also the biggest of the series, is the GA 143. It features a 43m jib, it has a maximum load capacity of 4t with two ropes and can reach a height of 24.4m.

General manager Alessandro Butti says the two ropes increase the hoist speed. He also highlighted the dimension of this model: “When the crane is not erected, it is very compact. For transportation you only need two trucks, one for cranes and one for ballast.”

As for the reasons behind the launch of the GA 143, Butti says it was because customers and dealers have been asking for a bigger crane.

“In Italy, people like small cranes, but in Germany the 43m jib is often required. Our target is the German market, we feel that it is a market we can develop a lot.”

Some other markets FB Gru has delivered cranes to include the UK, Switzerland, Spain and a number of countries in North Africa.

Cattaneo was founded in Magnago in 1954 and is specialised in quick assembling hydraulic cranes. It has 12 crane models in its portfolio with capacities between 1.2t and 4t and jib length from 15–41m.

The largest self-erector of its range of its range is the CM 90S4, which has a maximum capacity of 5t, 1t at tip load, and maximum jib length of 41m.

At this year’s Bauma, Cattaneo was present through its German dealer BKL. The cooperation between the two companies has resulted to a number of models exclusive to BKL, under the brand BKL System Cattaneo.

One of these models is the new CM 415, which was launched at the trade fair. Without the need for additional climbing tower sections, the self-erecting crane offers three hook heights of 23.8m, 28.5m and 31.5m. With a maximum load capacity of 5t in two/four-fall mode, the CM 415 can still lift 1.25t at its radius of 41m.

"The two-fall technology enables a higher handling rate as our hydraulic selferecting cranes automatically lift with maximum drive speed, depending on the load on the hook. With regards to power requirements, modern frequency converters mean they are economical in all three drive systems, thereby helping save electricity costs,” BKL added.

Fellow Italian manufacturer FMGru has two series of selferectors, the RBI and the RBI-FA. The RBI series comprises of six models with capacities from 1.8t to 5t, with jibs ranging from 24m to 40m. The slewing and hydraulic mechanisms are assembled inside the rotating frame.

FMGru says the hydraulic self-erection is very fast and safe. “The steering axles with minimum radius of curvature allow the RBI cranes to be positioned in narrow spaces. Thanks to the 'self ballasting device' the crane can load the ballast by itself without the need of other means,” the company says.

The RBI-FA series consists of four models with 25km/h and 80km/h axles, capacities from 1.8t-2.4t and 22-30m jibs. At Bauma the manufacturer presented the FM 622 RBI-FA which has a maximum lifting capacity of 1.8t, 22m jib and tip load of 600kg.

ENG Cranes is an Italian tower crane manufacturer based in Reggio Emilia, which has its own range of self erectors. The GTA series comprises five models with capacities from 1.5t to 4t, whereas the jib length varies from 22m to 36m. The largest model is the 4t GTA52, which has a jib lenth of 36m and maximum tip load of 1t. Its base is 4.3x4.3m and can reach a height of 27m.

Family owned self-erecting crane and tower crane manufacturer Gru Dalbe, founded in 1962, is based in Varese, Italy. Its current range of the selferecting bottom-slewing machines comprises models with 15 to 45m jibs and maximum capacities between 1t and 5t.

The newest model DB 747 has a maximum capacity of 5t and at the maximum jib length of 45m can lift 1.1t. Director Corrado Dalla Benetta tells Cranes Today that one of the companies strongest markets is Belgium, where De Ceuster is their dealer.

De Ceuster has been working with Gru Dalbe since 1988 and this long-standing cooperation has resulted in many ideas of the Belgian dealer around products to be implemented by the manufacturer. An example is the HS380 ECO, a 4t maximum capacity crane with a maximum jib length of 38m, which can be powered by a 220V monophase source.

De Ceuster tells Cranes Today they have had some models specially-designed for them, like the DB20 Stradale, a construction crane on a high-speed axle that can be transported as a trailer behind a truck. The DB20 Stradale has a maximum capacity of 1.6t and maximum jib length of 23m.

Over the past two years, there have been many new selferector models introduced to the global market. The majority of manufacturers chose to launch high capacity models, with many actually developing their highest capacity models to date. Some of the models developed, like the Liebherr K 125, can actually be compared to a small top slewing crane.

It seems that the rate of innovation will not cease, for some manufacturers like Terex and Saez it will even accelerate, as both companies plan to launch new products in the near future.

Three 81 K.1 fast erecting cranes and a Liebherr flat top working on a bridge construction in Offenbach, Germany.
Eurogru exhibited the E 34.10 at Bauma. It features a two rope hoisting system and is capable of lifting 4t.
The LiTRAX high-speed axle system is suitable for modular use in various combinations.
The new BKL System Cattaneo CM 415 has a maximum lifting capacity of 5t in two/four-fall mode.
Manitowoc recently sold and shipped its 1,000th Igo T 85.
Two Montalift M21 4WDS in Leusden, the Netherlands, working on a housing renovation project.
The Terex CBR 40H self erecting tower crane has a maximum capacity of 4 t.
FB Gru’s GA 143 features a 43m jib and has a maximum load capacity of 4t.
A Gru Dalbe DB 747 supplied by Belgian dealer De Ceuster at a job site in Antwerp, Belgium.
FMGru’s 622 RBI-FA has a maximum lifting capacity of 1.8t and a 22m jib.