One of the most useful and planet changing inventions of all time is the crane. Originally invented by the ancient Greeks and powered by men or donkeys, cranes were used to help build some of the most fascinating structures in ancient Athens. Eventually men and donkeys were replaced with steam engines, and then internal combustion engines or electric motors and hydraulic systems were finally added.
Since those first rudimentary inventions, both cranes and architecture have come a long way. Nowadays cranes come in a wide range of sizes for use in many industries. From jib cranes, used in doors in workshops to tower cranes, used in the construction of sky scrapers to floating cranes, used on oil rigs, you could say these aren’t your grandpa’s type of cranes.
Today, crane trucks are a commonly used type of heavy equipment in which a crane is mounted on a heavy, modified truck. Cranes use telescoping booms made up of hydraulic collapsible sections that are extended outward. The crane can be moved horizontally or vertically, making it an extremely versatile piece of machinery. Cranes are used to either lift of lower heavy, awkward materials and to move them horizontally. Unlike some types of cranes, crane trucks are able to travel on highways, affording easy, albeit somewhat slow, transport.
Most generally, cranes are used in the transport, construction and manufacturing industries for everything from loading and unloading freight to assembling heavy equipment. The crane illustrates how simple machines can create a mechanical advantage. A balance crane uses a horizontal beam which pivots around a fulcrum. Much like a seesaw, a heavy load is placed on the long end of the beam. By exerting a smaller force in the opposite direction of the longer end of the beam, the load is lifted. The hydraulic cylinder is used to lift the load directly or to move the jib or beam that carries another lifting implement.
While extremely convenient, cranes can also be dangerous. When working on the jobsite, outriggers are extending from the truck to stabilize the crane while it is working. While carrying a load, cranes have a very slow traveling speed. The operator must be extremely careful not to swing the load sideways while moving forward or backward. Due to the rigidity of the chassis on crane trucks, along with moving counterweights, swinging a load will not always cause a tip over accident; it is never advisable to push the limits of your equipment in this way. Always read the manufacturers instruction manual, follow OSHA regulations and never allow unqualified workers to operate this type of machinery. Remember, safety comes first.
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