Faster, greener, homes27 December 2023
Around the world housing supply fails to keep up with demand. The crane industry is playing its part with new cranes that focus on fast, low- and zero-emissions equipment, that meet the needs of tradespeople and delivery drivers across the sector. Will North reports.
The housebuilding sector is in many ways one of the simplest the lifting industry serves. Loads are relatively light, often measured in kilograms rather than tonnes. Typically, they will only need to be lifted two or three stories high.
But this is a sector that requires speed and, increasingly, quiet and carbon free operation. Whether crane owners are looking for a handy tool for rooftop installations, the high working area coverage provided by a tower crane, or the power and reach of a knuckleboom, manufacturers now offer a range of highly optimised equipment.
LIGHTWEIGHT AND ELECTRIC
Lightweight boom cranes, once a regional peculiarity of Germany and its Continental neighbours, have in recent years become increasingly popular in the UK.
These cranes have become known as ‘aluminium boom’ cranes, reflecting the design approaches used for many early models. But today, they often use high strength steels, carefully cut and optimised to offer reasonable load capacity, with long reach. They are most commonly mounted on commercial trucks, but can also be delivered on trailers or crawler carriers.
This makes them ideal for the fairly lightweight jobs found on low rise residential projects: lifting roof trusses or mounting solar panels. And as more sites adopt modern methods of construction (MMoC) they can be used to place aerated concrete panels, speeding construction times and reducing the need for back-breaking, risky, manual labour.
Jobs like this will, by their nature, often take place close to where people live. Noise and emissions are both a particular challenge. And, around the world, clients, regulators and planners are increasingly demanding the use of low- or zero-carbon equipment.
The two leading manufacturers of lightweight boom cranes sold internationally – Klaas and Böcker – have both been focussing on this over the last year.
FULLY ELECTRIC TRUCK CRANE
At Bauma, Böcker introduced its first fully electric truck crane, the 6t maximum capacity AK 48e.
Mounted on a Mercedes eActros truck, with a gross vehicle weight of 27 tonnes, it can travel to site and work, all powered by a 336 kWh battery with electric power take off (ePTO) for the crane. That’s enough charge to travel up to 300km.
On the way to Bauma, the electric truck crane was driven the 720km from the Böcker factory in Werne, near Dortmund, to Munich, by Jörg Mehllage. The Böcker employee was able to find charging locations en route, using an eMobility app. The journey shows that electric truck cranes like this can be used for jobs far from the depot. In typical operation, though, this should be plenty for taxi operations, with charging at the depot. The crane can also be mounted on a standard diesel carrier, with a more traditional PTO, or as a hybrid, with a 400V motor.
The crane also features an innovative structure and geometry. The main boom can be angled at 180°, to offer all the advantages of a mobile tower crane. With the boom positioned straight up, and the jib extending perpendicularly, this allows the crane to lift loads of up to 1000kg up and over rooftops. In this configuration, it can reach a height of 34.7m, and out to 14.4m, with an additional 3m available on the extension jib.
Klass has also launched its first truck crane with battery-powered lifting, the K700 E. The base K700 offers a standard capacity of 1.6t, with an optional increase to 3t, a maximum hook height of 34.5m and maximum reach of 30m. It is designed for mounting on a small, 7.5t two-axle truck.
Once on site, the K700 E allows for emissions free lifting, through the addition of a 24kWh lead battery and a battery operated electric motor. Power use is optimised to allow for a full day of lifting operations without recharging. When it is time to recharge, the crane can do so from a standard 230v power point, and this is enough to fully charge the crane overnight.
Like many boom trucks, the K700 can be fitted with a platform. In this mode, five hours of continuous operation can be achieved from the battery.
As electric cranes do not waste energy idling, this again, in effect, amounts to a full day’s working.
An alert system warns platform operators when the battery is running low.
ELECTRIC TOW AND GO
As well as truck cranes, both companies also offer trailer versions, and these too are now being offered with the option of electric power. Klaas offers two models, the K280 E, launched in 2022, and the K 350 E, launched in March. A diesel electric hybrid option is also available on the K22-33 RS.
The K280 E offers a load capacity 800kg, with a reach of 18.5m and lifting height of 19m. When arriving on site fully charged, it can be unhitched and travel to its working location under its own power.
For users looking for a higher capacity option, Klaas this year launched the K350 E. This offers a maximum capacity of 1.6t, with a reach of 32.8m and maximum hook height of 31m. The trailer crane is powered by a lithium battery, large enough for a full day’s work. The crane can be charged using a 230v power supply, and is able to work while charging.
Böcker also offers two electric trailer cranes, the AHK 30e KS and AHK 36e. The AHK 30e KS offers a maximum capacity of 1.5t, at heights up to 30m and with a reach of up to 22.4m. The AHK 36e – which Böcker claims as the most powerful trailer crane in its class – can reach heights up to 36m and lifts loads of up to 2.4t.
German roofing company Heiße, from Marsberg-Essentho, put one of these units to the test on a recent job, re-roofing a family home in Bad Wünnenberg. On arriving at site, the trailer travelled under its own power to an optimal position in the home’s driveway.
The crane was used to remove old concrete roof tiles, reaching over the roof at a radius of 23m, and carrying loads of up to 250kg at a time in a skip. Tile removal was completed in two hours. The crane was then fitted with a pallet fork to carry wood fibre panels, to be used to insulate the roof, again carrying 250kg at a time.
The trailer crane was charged while working, using a 230v socket in the home’s garage. The crane was able to work while charging.
A boost mode allows the operator to top up the battery quickly, in just 15 minutes. When idle, the battery can be charged from 20% to 80% in an hour. Power use is optimised using a stop-and-go system, which only activates the electric motor as needed. This allows the crane to work longer, when an electrical connection is not easily available.
A SELF-ERECTOR FOR HOUSEBUILDING
While the lightweight boom crane sector has offered a rapid expansion of electric options over the last year, self-erectors have long been electric-powered. Potain, Manitowoc’s tower crane brand, now offers a new range of self-erectors, Evy, squarely targeting the housebuilding sector.
The first model in the range is the 4t Evy 30-23. The crane has been engineered with home and residential building construction, up to three stories high, in mind.
At the tip of its 30m jib the crane can lift loads of up to 1t. The jib can be angled at 10, 20, or 30 degrees. This allows the standard height under hook of 22.9m to be increased to 35m, with the jib raised to 30 degrees. The jib measures 30m long. This can be shortened to 24m, when needed, and can also be folded back on itself hydraulically, to just 15m.
The crane is supplied with Potain’s CCS Crane Control System, Smart Set-up, Power Control, and Drive Control, designed to provide operators with complete control and precision on the jobsite. Its ergonomic design improves operator comfort, says Potain, as it reduces manual operation and lessens operator fatigue. Potain CONNECT telematics allow owners to monitor and analyse crane utlilsation, with remote and local diagnostics using Potain’s Access and Assist applications.
The crane is powered by a three-phase power supply. It uses permanent four-fall reeving and is designed for fully automated
HEAVY AND ELECTRIC
On many housebuilding projects, delivery of materials directly to where they will be used is key to efficient operations.
Knuckleboom cranes offer the ability to deliver loads from the truck to the installation site. Larger capacity models allow for the direct installation of components such as roof trusses.
Hiab has recently launched two new models in its Effer heavy loader series: the iQ.950 HP, and the super heavy iQ.1400 HP.
The first model offers a 90tm capacity. It makes use of the V12- Power dodecagonal – 12 sided – boom profile developed for Effer’s latest cranes. Hiab describes the iQ.950 HP as a multi-purpose crane suitable for a wide range of vertical and horizontal lifting jobs, that be performed safely and precisely at high speed.
The crane has been optimised for use on smaller trucks. Marcel Boxem, Hiab’s vice president, sales and product management, loader cranes heavy and super heavy, says, “The new Effer models provide our customers with efficient loader cranes that increase both payload capacity and lifting performance, thanks to our engineering and technological advancements. They offer the same performance as bigger models but can be installed on smaller and more cost-conscious trucks. This is another milestone to cope with our customer demand to reduce CO2 emissions and enhance their operations in urban areas.”
The larger model – the Effer iQ 1440 HP – offers a lifting capacity of 135tm, with a V10 decagonal boom. The focus here is on reach. The crane has a maximum vertical reach of 39.5m and can be supplied with a 26tm jib. This allows the crane to perform ‘upand- over’ lifts to a radius of 26m.
The boom can be used at an angle of up to 83°, making it suitable for work in constricted urban environments.
“Customers will be able to experience a whole new level of heavy load lifting, with a crane that excels in vertical reach of over 39 metres,” Boxem says.
“The engineering, combined with a CombiDrive4 remote control from Olsbergs, gives operators unprecedented precision even at high heights. The 135tm range delivers performances similar to bigger segment cranes. The smaller frame makes it suitable for installations on smaller trucks and provides plenty of payload, not normally seen in this segment.”
Both cranes feature Hiab’s new SPACEevo control system, for safe and precise operation.
The Load Stability System for vertical movements (LSS-V) compensates for unintentionally excessive lever movement in vertical operations, while the Variable Stability Logic PLUS (VSL+) feature optimises lifting capacity by monitoring the position and pressure of the stabiliser legs. The Dynamic Load Chart (DLC-S) reduces setup time by simulating the load capacity before opening the stabilisers.
Like the lightweight boom crane manufacturers, Hiab is focussing on emissions reduction. By making these heavy and super heavy cranes lighter, they can be used on smaller trucks, cutting both costs and emissions. But owners can go further, by making use of the company’s updated ePTO system, Hiab aPTO 44. This is lighter than the first iteration of the system, but with increased battery capacity. It can be fitted to any crane in the company’s HiPro range. The setup consists of a battery, an electric motor, a hydraulic pump and a smart electronic control system, which is packaged on the truck chassis. The status of the ePTO 44 is visible in the CombiDrive4 remote control display or on a display mounted on the crane.
The ePTO 44 is designed to be fitted onto the carrier, charging the battery with power from the engine; this allows it to work on site with the engine turned off, reducing emissions and noise.
That, in turn, can allow builders merchants to start deliveries earlier, getting materials to site before everyone else starts work, without worrying about the impact of noise on neighbours.
Lawsons made innovative use of the first version of Hiab ePTO, on a compressed natural gas-powered carrier, for low emissions driving.
The company has chosen the ePTO 44 for use on more recent cranes, with a diesel engine. But that still offers distinct advantages for operators, with one Lawsons delivery driver reporting that, “From an operator’s point of view, using the crane is far less tiring.
We’re not fatigued because we’re not working with the constant drone of the truck’s engine running all the time when we’re unloading.
After a ten-hour shift, you really notice the noise difference. Working with the ePTO makes our environment a happier place.”
Mattias Berglund, director, global product management, special applications and digital products, Hiab comments: “The new ePTO 44 raises the standard for battery-operated crane operation. The weight has been reduced and the power has been increased to provide greater, more sustainable loader crane performance while providing a safer and more comfortable working environment.”
NEXT GENERATION TECHNO
Fassi has also been focusing on adding reach, without adding weight, with three new models launched in a new generation of its Techno range. The first model, the F1450R-HXP Techno launched in late 2021. This was followed by the F1750R-HXP Techno in April 2022, and the F1750RL-HXP, launched this year.
The focus on all three cranes has been on their power-to-weight ratio. Launching the first model, Fassi said that this was achieved by a series of innovations, such as the digital control system, the new display interface, the brand-new stability control, the decagonal design of the secondary arm and extension booms, and the new dynamic lift control.
The cranes are controlled using Fassi’s FX990 control unit. These give the cranes greater control of stability and allow it to work in vertical positions with higher performance. This allows the crane to work closer to where loads are being delivered.
With the first crane, Fassi introduced a decagonal boom profile – first used on its US cranes – on the secondary boom. This allows for lighter sections to be used, without sacrificing capacity. Fassi says that this offers a more than 50% improvement when working vertically. The latest model, launched this spring, is the F1750RL-HXP. This is a 132tm crane, with a maximum outreach (with jib) of 40.65m.