Tower Cranes: A Feat of Science and Engineering

Cranes in a Construction SiteConstruction cranes are perhaps among the most ‘nondescript’ things you’ll likely see on a normal day. But, given the numerous incredible things these machines can do, you’re missing out on a lot. Case in point, they might be among the most amazing feats of both engineering and science known to man.

Monumental Lifting Power

First off, start by analyzing their most basic job: lifting heavy things. So, how much weight can they lift on a normal day? A typical crane measures 265 feet tall, fully unsupported. As the building it helps construct rises, that height can grow further if it’s supported all the way up. At this ‘normal’ height, a tower crane can lift a maximum weight of 19.8 tons. That’s almost the same weight as three fully grown African elephants.

Cranes make use of solid engineering and sturdy materials to lift such weight. Apart from extremely tough rigging cables which are tested either onsite or offsite for overall stability, a crane also features a powerful winch motor. To make sure the cable doesn’t lift more load than it actually can, there are special load limit switch monitors that tell the operator if the load goes overboard. To prevent the crane from falling over, a system of concrete counterweights is placed in the crane’s ‘machine house’ where the winch motor and all other lifting components are located.

When Heavy Loads Become Incomprehensible

Here’s where a crane’s lifting capability can reach almost unbelievable levels. Remember the average maximum weight that these machines can lift? Forget about that and go beyond the bounds of reason. So far, the absolute heaviest weight that cranes can lift topped at a massive 20,133 tons.

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That’s about as heavy as 100 fully grown Blue Whales. In case you didn’t know, the Blue Whale is known as the largest and heaviest animal to ever exist. This feat, however, was performed by a special type of crane known as a gantry crane, which strongly resembles a supermassive gate that straddles the workload underneath a beam instead of letting it hang on one side like a tower crane does. But still, the amount of the weight that such machines can lift is near impossible.

So, the next time you see a crane, take a moment and marvel at these mega-machines.