Tower Crane Basics – Understand Tower Cranes

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Tower cranes are a familiar sight in virtually any town or city, standing tall above construction sites ensuring that everything runs smoothly by lifting building materials and equipment to higher levels where they can be used.

But how do they work?

Actually, the first question people ask is how does it get there in the first place?

The simple answer is this: They crane operators use another crane. Tower cranes are entirely modular, and can be constructed reasonably quickly using a temporary hydraulic crane, which lifts the parts into place where they are bolted together.

From first glance, these tower cranes appear to defy the laws of gravity – how does something so fragile-looking manage to stay upright in all weathers and lift tons of equipment day in, day out? They are, in fact, a triumph of engineering, made up of components that are far stronger than they look, all counter-balanced so that they stay upright all the time.

A closer look at the tower and the jib show that they’ve been specifically designed for strength. There are triangles everywhere in those boxy structures, the triangle being virtually indestructible whatever stresses are applied to it from whatever angle. This is all nothing without a strong base to secure the crane onto, and the large concrete base means a large, heavy footprint that supports the structure’s weight and also holds it firm.

Onto this basic structure, there’s the operator’s cab, the rotating (or slewing) unit, and the all-important counter-weight which balances the weight of the jib behind the operator. Without a correctly calculated (and often constantly adjusted) counter-weight, the whole thing would topple with the first heavy load.

The fact that the whole structure remains upright throughout its working life is a testament to the skills of designers, site supervisors and operators. It’s all about balance. A typical crane can take heavy loads, but can manage them better when closer to the mast. That means, the heavier the load, the smaller the operating radius of the structure. However, this can be partially mitigated by adjustments to the counter-balance, but everything’s controlled by limit switches which ensure that nobody tries anything that’s outside of safe limits.

And the other question people always ask: What happens if the operator forgets his lunch? Answer: He gets hungry.

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