Tower Cranes: How They Work and Why You Should Care

February 1, 20210 Comments

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From manufacturing to shipbuilding to towering city skylines, just about every sector of the construction industry would be nothing without the contributions of crane technology. The simple lever-and-pulley robotics of a tower crane serves as a practical way of assembling massive structures and lifting upwards of 40,000 pounds of material at once.

But have you ever driven by a bustling construction site and wondered how cranes work? The vast abilities of tower cranes often go overlooked by those not working in construction, but it’s important to understand the functions and self-sufficient nature of these powerful machines.

Structure of a Tower Crane

Though their technology may be conceptually simple, tower cranes have a complex makeup of moving parts that allow for maximum performance when lifting heavy loads. The crane’s tower, which extends upward from the base, remains stable due to a solid concrete foundation at the base. On the upper end sits a rotating device known as a turntable, which allows for a 360-degree view from the operator’s cab at the crane’s apex.

The parts of the crane that do the actual lifting are a trolley and hook block, which span a long, arm-like jib that extends from the top of the crane. This mechanism allows the crane to vertically lift and lower loads of materials. The trolley and hook block harness movement from the crane’s main winch, which is a motorized component that sits behind the operator’s cab. To balance the mass amounts of weights a tower crane handles, counterweights hang from a counterjib that stretches behind the operator cab.

How Are Tower Cranes Built?

There is only one piece of machinery that could properly assemble something as unique as a crane: itself!

Builders start by using mobile cranes meant for smaller-scale structures (shorter buildings, machinery, etc.) to lay the concrete foundation and assemble several of the tower crane’s parts, such as the jib, operator’s crane, and counterjib. Then, the mobile crane begins lifting sections of the tower into place. Once the tower reaches a sufficient length, builders use a hydraulic jack and what already exists of the tower crane to assemble the rest of its own tower.

This unique construction process is why those in the construction industry consider tower cranes to be such self-sustaining and powerful tools. Several of the most famous buildings in the urban world, including such giants as the One World Trade Center in New York City, would not have been possible without this technological innovation. Standing among some of the world’s most impressive cranes, they will remain crucial tools in urban development.

So next time you find yourself in the city and pass by a massive tower crane, always remember what a fascinating piece of equipment is staring right back at you. Knowing how they function, as well as their practical applications to building and machinery, will be essential for anyone entering the field of construction or robotics. For a more visual demonstration of how tower cranes work, be sure to check out the following helpful animated crane graphic from the BigRentz team!


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About the Author ()

Gabrielle Gardiner is a Content Marketing Specialist at Siege Media

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