The six-axle ranges are now fully formed across most of the main manufacturers as they look towards filling the gulf between the 500 and 600 tonne capacity class. Euan Youdale reports
|A Liebherr LTM 1350-6.1 Richi Weiningen
carries out construction work in Germany
Manufacturers of all terrain cranes have steadily been extending their offerings across the 6-axle class and above in the last three years. Liebherr has three cranes in the six axle range: the 150 tonne capacity LTM 1150-6.1, 250 tonne LTM 1250-6.1 and 350 tonne LTM 1350-6.1.
Speaking about the LTM 1250-6.1, Christoph Kleiner, managing director at Liebherr-Werk Ehingen in Germany, says, "It is an economical crane with short set-up times, easy in operation. It offers a 72 metre boom and is our smallest crane with luffing jib."
The LTM 1350-6.1 is a versatile crane which can be used throughout an extremely wide range of applications, from lightweight long reach to heavy load applications, adds Kleiner. "It offers a hook height of 134 m, which is a record in the six-axle class. With its 70 m long boom and y-guying system it is an extremely strong crane, which can take over crane jobs of the 400 tonne, 7-axle class."
Providing the choice of a taxi-like crane and a heavy lifter with capacity enhancement systems within the six axle range is an approach other manufacturers are also taking. Manitowoc introduced the GMK6300 and GMK6400 in 2010, with 300 and 400 tonnes capacity, respectively. "The strategy is to cover the entire 6-axle market with two cranes," says Neil Hollingshead, Manitowoc global product manager. "There is the long boom fast-erection crane for taxi work. It doesn't have mega lift or conventional luffing jib. It has a hydraulic jib and swing- away but not the long, heavy reach like the 6400 designed for heavy lift work, which is a slightly different segment of the market."
Hollingshead says Manitowoc has already started shipping the 6300. "The 6400 is still undergoing testing and pre-production partnerships (PPP), where we put the crane out with key customers to try it out," explains Hollingshead. "With the 6300, we are just about to start production and we shipped 10 already to PPP customers."
Fast and flexible
Terex offers the 250 tonne capacity AC 250-1and the 350 tonne AC 350/6. The former has an 80 m long main boom roadable with a 12 tonne per axle load. A self-rigging, and 100 m system length on the road, and a 113 m maximum system length with up to 36 m extendable swing-away jib. The manufacturer describes it as an agile and compact six axle crane, with the most compact working area, outrigger base and tail radius, in its class.
The AC 350/6 is designed to offer the biggest possible working range with easy-to-use and transport-friendly features. It claims to have the highest lifting capacities in the 250-350 tonne range. It has a superlift main boom guy for capacity increase, a 64 m main boom, and a system length up to 125.7 m. It has a fully automatic counterweight rigging system.
Tadano Faun also has two cranes in its 6-axle range: the 400 tonne ATF 400G-6 and 360 tonne ATF 360, although the company is taking a different approach. A significant feature of the ATF 400G-6, launched in May 2011, is its below-12 tonne loading across each of its six axles when weighed with driver, hook block, fuel, oil and 16.00 tyres, says Alexander Knecht, Tadano Faun president and CEO.
During development the crane kept the ATF 360 name, in recognition of the existing 360 tonne ATF 360, which, says Knecht, was more-or-less a machine aimed at the Japanese and Asian markets. It became clear during testing, however, that the machine was now in the 400 tonne class.
It also differs from existing machines in the market, adds Knecht, because it is less complex: there is no Superlift or Y-guy; just a Tadano A-frame power system with no side wires. The machine's weight distribution produces outstanding lifting capacities on the main boom and luffer, claims Knecht.
"It is our interpretation that, in the 400 tonne class, we do not see this equipment [superlift/Y-guy] as absolutely necessary and it will differ from the competition. Of course, it depends on the usage of the crane. We hear some voices in the market saying it should be simple, operator friendly, and need less backup transport. On the other hand you can say it is simpler but it has a little less capacity, so you have to make your own choice between those two options."
As Hollingshead says, most rental companies now have a 6-axle all terrain in their fleets due to the increasing weights of their lifts. This trend has been accompanied by new emission laws forcing manufacturers to accommodate heavier and larger engines.
"It's about optimising materials and basically saving weight wherever we can. On the 6400 we have a single engine, no superstructure engine and that allows us to get a very strong load chart because the weight you save can be reinvested in the carrier train and also the strength of the boom." Hollingshead continues, "Tier 4 final that's going to be when the weight makes a real difference and that's when we are going to have to do most of our design work."
The integration will continue to be an issue, comments Kleiner at Liebherr, "There are also logistical challenges, as we have to convert the complete range of engines and cranes within a very short time. This affects not only the crane manufacturer and engine manufacturer but also component suppliers."
Developments are not isolated to six axles, however, as manufacturers look to fill ranges beyond their seven axle machines and into a relatively empty area between the 500 and 1,200 tonne capacity classes.
Liebherr is building the nine axle 750 tonne capacity LTM 1750-9.1. "It will be our strongest crane that can drive with a complete telescopic boom on public roads. It will have a 52 m telescopic boom and reach a hook height of 155 m with luffing jib." The crane follows the path of reduced rigging times, says Kleiner, for applications in general construction, industry and wind turbine erection. It will be launched mid-2012.
Over and above
Manitowoc is also looking at opportunities above its range topping all terrain, the GMK 7450, although no specifications are available as yet. Speaking generally about the sector, Hollingshead says, "I think there is a big gap in the market there between 500 and 1,000 tonnes - I think there's space for one crane. We have the GTK 1100 for high wind work, and of course we have the 7450 - we want something between those going forward."
As Kleiner reiterates the future for this capacity range is bright. "The demand for larger mobile cranes was even strong during the worldwide economic crisis and we see a solid demand for oncoming years, mainly driven by all kinds of industrial and infrastructure requirements and, of course, wind power."
Those applications will be found particularly in the emerging markets of Brazil, Russia and China, while North America and Australia are very stable, adds Kleiner.
Another growth market is Turkey, the 16th largest economy in the world and, in percentage terms, is growing faster than China. Knuckle boom manufacturer Global Power, based in Turkey, is the first company known to place an articulated loader crane on an all terrain type chassis.
So far it has produced a 150 tonne capacity model on a four axle chassis, but there are plans for a 200 tonne model. This will follow on from a future 130 tonne crane and a further 100 tonne all terrain or knuckle boom on the drawing board.
The conventional all terrain business will also develop very quickly in the country, says Guvenc Tokgoz, global sales manager and mechanical engineer. "Turkish construction companies are among the strongest and fastest growing companies in the world. There will always be increasing demand for them."
South America has three major markets: Chilli, Brazil and Mexico, says Hollingshead. Manitowoc Cranes has announced it will build its first Latin American factory in Brazil. The 25,000 m2 facility will be in Passo Fundo, a city in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. The company plans to build different models of cranes at the new factory.
Tadano has also announced plans to build a training and after sales facility in Brazil - for more information see the market hot spots feature, starting on page 40.
In China, domestic manufacturers have been stepping into the high capacity all terrain market, as evident most recently at the Bauma China exhibition in November 2010. At the 2008 event there was a 220 tonne capacity Sany all terrain crane and, by 2010, there were the Sany SAC12000 and XCMG QAY1200 models in the 1,000 tonne capacity class. In the research and planning stage at XCMG is a 1,500 tonne capacity all terrain type telescopic boom crane. Sun Jian Zhong, XCMG crane division president, says it could be presented before the end of 2015.
In contrast, some previously booming western markets are causing continued concern following the credit crisis. "Since December 2010 we determine a positive change. Order entries are increasing again, also for the smaller mobile cranes. So we expect for 2011 a moderate growth of the market, but Germany, France, UK and Spain are still underperforming," says Kleiner at Liebherr.
Russia is traditionally a truck crane market, and imports all of its all terrains come from western manufacturers, in the main. There is only one all terrain produced by a Russian company, the 100 tonne capacity KC-8973 'Ivanovets', manufactured by Ivanovskaya marka. "In reality there is no alternative to AT cranes with lifting capacity from 130 and more in Russian market. We don't see an increase in popularity for all terrains in the Russian market," says Alexander Volynkin, marketing director.
While the Russian all terrain market seems limited to capacities under 200 tonnes, the global market also appears to be limited, albeit to a much higher capacity. Hollingshead believes the area above 1,200 tonnes is difficult ground for all terrain development. "At 1,000 tonnes plus crane takes almost as much work to set up as crawler crane and it is not a mobile crane any more."
It is arguable that the all terrain name stops making sense at such high capacities, as there is no longer the ability to drive off pre-prepared ground. The same reasoning could be attributed to all terrains of a much lower capacity. "Some might argue that it is 200 tonnes; some might say 300 tonnes," comments Hollingshead. "If you go back 20 years all terrains were 40 or 50 tonnes and people said it was a cross between a rough terrain and truck crane, that's how it started. But, if you think about today, no real truck cranes go above 130 tonnes, so they are not a cross between those any more."
Hollingshead continues, "on the other hand, if an all terrain is described as 'all wheel steer with hydro- or mega-track suspension', then all of them are all terrains."