If steel and concrete are the building blocks of the world as we know it, cranes are the indispensable workhorses that put them together. There are all types of cranes – from small mobile cranes to towering construction cranes that are taller than high-rise buildings themselves.
Think Thor is the mightiest avenger? You haven’t seen what these types of cranes can do!
Think crane and immediately your mind goes to construction cranes. However, cranes have permeated far and wide. Today, cranes perform a whole host of tasks, some that truly fall in the category of cool.
Here are 5 fascinating types of cranes. And their impact on your life is much greater than you can imagine.
Literally the backbone of globalization, vast gantries load and unload thousands of containers on and off post-panamax ships. Gantry type cranes are semi-mobile. Installed on rails, gantries are able to run parallel to docked vessels. The jib remains raised till the ship has docked and then positions itself over the containers. The World Bank estimates that over 750 million containers passed through the world’s 50 busiest ports in 2017 – and all have been handled by mobile cranes! Gantry cranes make the world economy possible – and deliver that brand new iPhone into your hand.
Tallest gantry: 220 feet
Strongest gantry crane: 20,000 metric tons
You’ve surely heard at least one of the many interesting facts about Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington. It is the largest building on Earth – so large that it is said the Disneyland theme park can fit inside it! If that’s not enough, the building has its own micro-climate, with clouds forming. So the 26 overhead cranes that run across 60 km of track have their work cut out. Wondering when your plane first flew? Probably when, in Boeing’s plant, one of these mighty overhead cranes lifted and ‘flew’ a near complete jet over other planes and thousands of workers. Building mounted cranes also have to be able to balance both facets – incredible lifting strength and fine control over movement.
Overhead crane capacity: 40+ tons
Other interesting reads:
Making movie magic
This one needs a bit of a spoiler alert. Gasping as your hammer wielding superhero takes flight? It’s a crane that made that bit of movie magic possible, or brought the director’s eccentric vision to life. Crane shots are integral to movie making; cinematography, special effects and more rely on movie set cranes. Camera cranes are much smaller than their heavy lifting brethren, but far more adaptable. These jib cranes can be remote controlled, shaped to suit confined space and are… shhh… extremely silent.
Number of Superman flights filmed: 19 per day
The humble construction crane is, truly, the most underappreciated asset of the construction industry. Construction cranes are actually tower cranes. Fixed to one point in the ground, construction cranes serve one purpose: lifting. Some are specialized, but most building cranes are used to lift steel beams, heavy construction loads – even elevators! It’s why tower crane operators require so much training. You need incredible spatial awareness and foresight when you are working with hundreds of people on the construction site and the smallest mistake can cause fatalities.
Tallest tower crane: Over 400 feet tall
Strongest construction crane: 120 tons
Another equally unassuming type of crane is the mobile crane, or crane truck. These are everywhere, doing virtually everything. A mobile crane is typically self-propelled. What it means is it can drive to the job site; configure into a lifting platform with jacks; extend the jib and be ready for business. Almost like a Transformer this, mobile crane, is. Only, instead of shooting lasers it has almost alien lifting powers! Crane trucks can be configured with a number of boom and jib variations, making them extremely versatile.
Strongest truck crane: 1200 tons
Tallest mobile crane: Over 300 feet
Cranes are truly modern marvels. Floating cranes (ships designed especially for lifting) can lift over 14000 tons – on water! The International Space Station has a crane arm (designed and built right here in Canada!) that perform incredibly delicate tasks, transport astronauts and material, and even walk from one end of the ISS to the other!