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The market for lattice-boom crawler cranes is divided into to sections, according one industry expert.

The market for lattice-boom crawler cranes is divided into to sections, according one industry expert.

The market for lattice-boom crawler cranes is divided into two sections, according to Keith Lupton of Jebel Ali based WWA Auctions.

Simply put, there are those that want advanced drive systems and on-board telematic - and there are those that don't.

Planned obsolescence

One company well known through the Middle East is the Wisconsin-based firm Manitowoc. A representative of the firm told us "In a world of "planned obsolescence," [our] cranes are engineered to be a profitable part of your business for years to come. In fact, our products last so long, we often find ourselves working with customers still using the same equipment they bought from us 20, 30, even 40 years ago."

Lupson agrees "We recently sold some old Manitowoc into India. On these things, the fundamental design hasn't changed for seventy years."

He added that the operators in the market that they were sold in to liked to do their own maintenance, and fabricate parts when necessary.

In fact, according to Lupson, Manitowoc are one of several manufacturers who occasionally buy their old products back in order to totally refurbish them.

Despite the rudimentary design of the older models, the range of machines goes right up to 1000 US tons.

"You see a lot of big pussy cats (fleet managers) will go back to the same thing, because their drivers are used to it and they know its performance" he explained.

Hydraulic drive

However, the fully mechanical chain-drive on older crawlers has now largely been supplanted by the hydraulic drive system. While the old method of population is easy to understand, it is prone to wear as well as being slow and rough.

According to Lupson "The Japanese invented this hydraulic drive which really did make a difference. Because often on site, a foreman will have the crane constantly travelling from bridge A to bridge B and it mucks up the tracks of the old conventional one" he says.

A hydraulic drive system is simply a mechanical actuator that converts hydraulic pressure and flow into torque and rotation.

While it is now used in most tracked vehicles, one of the first companies to employ the system on crawler cranes was IHI of Toyosu, Japan.

Lupson recalls; "The likes of IHI was really smooth, almost like something out of (long running BBC science-fiction drama) Doctor Who - and I think they could move as well as a Dalek. IHI have become very expensive at auction right now."

New tech

New technology hasn't been limited to an improved drive system though.

As safety and fleet management have become increasingly important, complex telematics are being fitted to high-end crawler cranes to monitor a variety of functions, from fuel consumption and run time, to the angle of the boom and other data.

Coupled with more modern drive-by-wire control systems, it becomes easy to understand why firms are pulling together to pool their resources.

"Terex have been consolidating the market" says Lupson, indicating that eight historic crane brands are now prefixed with the word 'Terex', including crawler crane makers American and Demag. However, the weight of a major manufacturer behind the brands has helped deliver some new products. Perhaps the best known is the CC8800-1 Twin, the first of which is operated in the region by Al Jaber Heavy Lift."

This machine has an increadible lifting weight of 3200 tonnes.

Bigger and better, or simple and cheap... One thing is for sure, tracked cranes will be part of the region's cityscapes for years to come.

Track facts

Plans for a tracked carriage date back to an English patent filed in 1770, though there is no record of it being built.

Tracked vehicles were first mass produced by Holt, the company that went on to become Caterpillar.

The British army bought Holt tractors, instead of any local brand, for use in the 1914-1918 war.

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