Heavy hydraulics

In the second of two articles, Stuart Anderson, president of Chortsey Barr, assesses current demand for heavy duty crawler cranes, and looks at the important innovations made by Japanese manufacturers.

Over the course of time, demand for heavy duty crawler cranes can fluctuate quite dramatically according to the demands of large construction projects. However, in recent years we’d estimate average annual demand in the range of 300–350 units worldwide. Of this we’d estimate that the established European and Japanese manufacturers contribute approximately 200 units and the Chinese and Russian manufacturers around 100–150.

The typical Japanese and particularly European cranes are of significantly higher capacity than other competitors and therefore generate substantially higher average revenues. In contrast the Chinese cranes are normally quite small, lower-capacity units with relatively-low sales prices. Consequently, the European and Japanese cranes probably constitute some 80% or more of total revenues.

In the early days the first fullyhydraulic crawler cranes were quite small machines. Sennebogen’s first fully-hydraulic crawler excavator/ crane introduced in 1969 was the 15t capacity SK 15. Powered by a 105hp diesel it was available with dragline or grabs of 600–800l capacity. The previous year PPM, then a division of the leading hydraulic excavator manufacturer Poclain, had introduced the its first fully-hydraulic crawler excavator/cranes in the shape of the 12t capacity model 12.02 available with dragline buckets of up to 700t capacity. PPM went on to sell over 400 hydraulic crawler excavator/cranes.

However, in terms of product development, throughout the 1970s, it was really Hitachi and Sumitomo that made the running. By the end of the decade these Japanese manufacturers offered fully-hydraulic crawler excavator/cranes of up to 150t capacity. Their machines, especially in the small-to-mid size classes, became immensely popular both at home in Japan but also throughout Asia, Australia and Europe. While most of these were not ‘heavy duty’ crawler cranes, all were capable of performing as draglines, grab cranes and pile drivers as well as straight lift cranes. Arguably Hitachi was the mostcommitted to fully-hydraulic cranes while Kobelco, Sumitomo, IHI and Nissha continued for some years to rely on the heavy-duty versions of their big mechanical crawler cranes for duty cycle and foundation work.

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