Knuckle booms reach new heights
By Euan Youdale22 May 2008
Hydraulic knuckle boom loader cranes are as popular as ever in their traditional markets where new, large capacity models are beginning to make more of an impact. This is adding fuel to the ongoing debate over knuckle booms versus lower-end capacity mobiles. Euan Youdale reports
Mid-range capacity loader cranes have a firm standing in the construction industry so there are inevitably concerns on hearing talk of an economic slowdown, even though sales are booming at present.
Speaking at the UK's Commercial Vehicle (CV) Show in April, Lee Maynard, general sales manager at Terex Atlas, said talk was rife of an economic slowdown in the construction industry.
“Last year was a very good year and this year has started off well but we are watching the situation. At this moment we are not seeing the effects but I think it is coming.”
The UK shares these fears with fellow European countries, along with the US, which is already further down the road towards recession. However, while Maynard says signs of a downturn in the general economy do exist; his sector of the crane market is still booming. The evidence, he explains, is in the healthy demand for quotes coming from potential customers. “There are orders to the back end of 2009. We have to be careful we don't talk ourselves into a recession. We have to be upbeat, although it is a very big talking point in the construction industry.”
For all manufacturers of truck mounted cranes, chassis delivery is an ongoing issue. In the UK, chassis lead times stand at 12 to 16 months, says Maynard. “You take an order but cannot realise it until you see a chassis.”
Much of the problem can be solved by adopting smarter planning strategies and schedules to ensure chassis arrive in time to fulfil the order, comments Maynard, a tactic successfully carried out at Terex, he adds.
Such plans rely on a deep knowledge of the industry. As board member of the Association Lorry Loaders Manufacturers Importers, (ALLMI) Maynard says he and fellow members are concerned with attaining an accurate feel of the UK market, which they put at 3,300 to 3,500 units a year (sales of new units).
Debuting at the CV show was Terex's TLC 380.3 A8. It was the first time the new model was presented in the iron, having been announced at the Bauma exhibition in Germany in April 2007. In the 38 tonne-metre class, this model offers a maximum of eight hydraulic extensions, an 8.2 to 21 m reach and continuous slewing.
While the model drew interest from passing crowds at the show, it is not ideally suited to the UK market and would be more at home at Spain's SMOPyC exhibition, held later in April. As Kai Busch, Terex area sales manager, explained, the crane's eight extensions with fly jib, would be used largely to lift from tall buildings in countries such as Spain and Italy, where roads are too narrow for a mobile crane to access.
Busch added that UK requirements usually ended at models with four boom extensions. Such models are a regular sight on trucks owned by building material suppliers, such as Travis Perkins and Jewson.
Terex Atlas' most popular product in the UK is the 12 tonne-metre TLC 120.2e A2, also on display at the CV Show. It has 5.3 to 14.4 m reach, with five hydraulic extensions and a maximum slew range of 410 degrees. As Maynard explains, the vast majority of UK orders are for two hydraulic extension versions of that model.
Also displaying its products at the CV show was Hiab. According to Ismo Leppanen, managing director, the UK market is demanding higher capacity loader cranes year-on-year, for the kind of work traditionally carried out by mobile cranes. Leppanen shares the view of many knuckle boom manufacturers globally, that as knuckle boom lifting capabilities increase, mobile crane operators are seeing the advantages of having a folding, easily transportable machine, which can perform equally well.
“Mobile crane hire companies are now diversifying and can do more with these products. Using loader cranes with a jib, you have more versatility. If a complex lift is well planned then you can do it quite independably, you do not need a mobile crane.”
At the show the company displayed its largest crane to date, the XS 1055, which was launched in the third quarter of 2007. Based on Hiab's XS 800, the crane is designed in response to customer demand. It can lift to more than 30 m, when combining the E-8 model with the 145X jib. “Minimal installation space is required compared to competitor cranes in a similar capacity class.” It also promises reduced fuel consumption and less contamination, resulting in increased efficiency and savings.
Other features of the new Hiab include new soft-seal couplings, approved for use up to 40 MPa, a regenerative load holding valve (LHV) and a combined hose failure and load holding valve which is mounted on to the cylinder.
In the last three years the UK market for 30 tonne-metre capacities upwards has increased from about 25 to 50 units. “In the next two to three years, if we do not have a downturn, that market will probably double.”
Leppanen puts much of the company's success down to its Hipro Control system, which he says is “truly proportional” in the way it divides oil flow, allowing the operator to carry out a number of functions at the same time to make inch-perfect movements.
In the UK the Hiab's most popular models are the XS122 HiDuo, with 12 tonne-metre capacity, and the XS144 HiDuo, 14 tonne-metres, bought by conventional building companies.
In Europe, Germany continues to be Hiab's biggest customer in terms of quantity of sales, while Spain also remains a loyal customer, along with Italy. Even though the latter country has many domestic manufacturers, Leppanen says Hiab is quite successful there. “Hiab is seen as top of the range, the spec is very high and customers want that.”
Hiab's figures from its 2007 financial year show net sales reaching €931 million (US$1.5 billion). Some 78% of that came from the EMEA region, while the Americas provided 14% and Asia 8%. The company employs 4,400 people in supply, assembly and sales facilities around the world.
Concerning leads times from these factories, Leppanen says Hiab has been actively increasing its capacity by concentrating its efforts in the production area. As a result delivery times have now come down from between 20 and 22 weeks, to 8 to 12 weeks. “That's where we have an advantage,” he adds.
Italy is arguably home of the truck mounted loader crane so, unsurprisingly, a range of new products have been launched by local manufacturers in the last few months.
Many of them were on display at the SAIE exhibition, in Italy, last year. Amco Veba's VR 85 is the only crane with ten boom extensions and has the longest outreach of any knuckle boom crane in the world, according to the manufacturer. The main boom alone is 30 m, with a 1.8 tonne capacity at maximum horizontal outreach and has three slewing motors. The extension cylinders are in a balanced arrangement to minimise boom deflection and also to keep the maximum height of the boom section to 340 mm for minimum headroom and for best access to place loads through windows and other openings.
Also new and on show from Amco Veba were the model 103 and the 946 Basic. The 3 tonne-metre model 103 replaces the 703 and is the first in a new family of cranes that are 30% cheaper compared with competitors and the line that it replaces. Giancarlo Perego, Amco Veba president, told IC that 300 units were sold in a few weeks leading up to the SAIE exhibition in late October. This year will probably see the addition of 5, 7 and 10 tonne-metre models.
Target markets for both the 103 and the 946 basic are Eastern European countries and South America. The 946 Basic is a 46 tonne-metre rated unit without electronic controls so the valve block is all mechanical.
Fassi has launched the latest addition to its 80 to 100 tonne-metre rated truck mounted crane range. Positioned between the F800BXP and the F110AXP, the new F950AXP Evolution has the best power-to-weight ratio in its category, according to the manufacturer. The F950AXP.24 version has a maximum load capacity of 19.18 tonnes at a height of 4.1 m.
“The attention paid by Fassi to heavy duty cranes, with lifting capacities of over 50 tonne-metres, means that the company is now the absolute leader in this segment of the market,” said Fassi.
F.lli Ferrari has presented its new four hydraulic extension, model 551 knuckle boom crane for the first time. The model has a maximum 4.65 tonne-metre lifting moment and a horizontal hydraulic outreach of 4.87 m. Maximum vertical reach is 7.82 m.
Also new in production are the models 745 and 746 R. The 745 is designed for the Eastern European and South American markets. Giancarlo Perego said some sophisticated components have been stripped away, creating a cheaper option for those markets. The 745 has a 45 tonne-metre lifting moment, a 6 m hydraulic outreach and a 10.3 m maximum vertical reach.
The 746 R has 46 tonne-metre lifting moment, 7.85 m horizontal outreach and 12.1 m vertical reach.
Effer has launched its 100 tonne-metre model 1355-9S. It has a maximum of nine hydraulic extensions for a maximum horizontal outreach of more than 22 m and a working height of 26 m. It can also be fitted with a 6S fly-jib for a working height of 39 m. Most notable of recent developments, however, is Effer's new CroSStab concept X-shaped outriggers.
Giancarlo Manzano, Effer export area manager, said the concept is unique. “It provides cross-type stabilisers that give an excellent stability over 360° of the crane working area without increasing the necessary mounting space of the crane on the truck.
“The result is that you lose no cargo space on the truck and yet in the case of a crane mounting behind the truck cabin, the stability frontward is close to 100%, while on conventional mountings you may only achieve 30%.”
“On the other hand, in the case of rear mountings, behind the cargo body, you get 100% stability backwards. Moreover, you get free space just behind the truck, which means that you can lift a heavy load very close to the crane; a load that can be twice as big as the one you might pick-up in other cases where you have to stretch the crane boom over the rear stabilizers thus losing lifting power.”
Copma 2000 has five new truck mounted crane models. They are the 280 A, 330, 140, 100 and 80. The 140 includes vertically raised stabilisers aimed at the European market following recent Euro 5 engine emission standards. Also new is Copma's 3.3 tonne trailer prototype, equipped for carrying knuckle boom cranes. Once on site the crane remains on the trailer for the duration of the work, which is carried out via remote control. So far the trailer has been designed for one dealer but will be launched worldwide in the near future, said the company.
PM Group has new versions of the 10, 14, 16 and 19P models from the Classic line, equipped with the company's Power Tronic Compact system. Initially used on high lifting capacity models, the system electronically controls the boom and other crane functions, improves manoeuvrability and lifting capacity, as well as general performance.
Also new from PM is the Platinum Line 35.5SP. Billed as a versatile and functional model it can have new electronically controlled winches that work in line with the Power Tronic system, according to the manufacturer.
PM is also offering new jibs. The J510 and J710 are designed to improve performance without affecting overall dimensions.
One of the world's biggest knuckle boom crane manufacturers, Palfinger, launched its High Performance series at the SAIE exhibition in Italy last year. As many as 80 new crane models will be launched over the next three years. Feature highlights as listed by the manufacturer include:
• Increased lifting moment with almost the same dead weight as previous models
• Maintenance-free extension boom system
• Power Link Plus on 8 tonne-metre models and larger
• Optimum customer benefit in terms of operating convenience and ease of maintenance.
The Palfinger launch follows more than four years of development work and includes suggestions from customer feedback worldwide. Palfinger says it used 50 years of crane building experience and invested €80 million ($125 million) in improving quality and efficiency at its production sites.
Wolfgang Pilz, CMO and head of cranes at Palfinger, comments, “With this development we will redefine the standards in the industry and further extend our lead in international competition. Our customers' requirements on our products are becoming increasingly demanding. Thus the High Performance description is a perfect expression of the performance and potential success of these cranes.”
Larger models in the new High Performance range will begin their introduction to the market towards the end of 2008.