A likely by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic is an acceleration in the adoption of digital construction technology. While remote working and social distancing can be the urgent drivers, the impact will be much greater as all generations of the workforce learn directly about the benefits and opportunities of digital technology.

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This is as true of the crane industry as it is of any sector of the construction business, perhaps even more so given the central role cranes play on construction sites. So it wouldn’t be surprising if a company like Windcrane, which supplies remote wind speed monitoring systems, saw increased interest in its technology, especially as sites try to make up for time lost by the crisis.

The company’s wind monitors, including the Windcrane Max and the more basic Windcrane Mini, provide users with real-time monitoring of crane wind speeds, including automatic warnings to an app and recording of historical wind data. The systems are suitable for both tower cranes and mobile and crawler cranes on wheels.

The UK-based company states that having instant and accurate location-specific data reduces planning time and the disputes associated with downtime. The IoT platform can also be integrated with various applications, analyzes and other software.

Lisa Cairns, Commercial Director, explains: “One of the main advantages of cloud-based data systems is the ability to seamlessly introduce software upgrades” behind the scenes “as soon as they are developed without interruption for the customer.”

UK-based wireless crane camera company and security specialist BlokCorp (its new name after changing BlokCam) also offers additional control and surveillance technology.

Under this new name, a new line called BlokAlert has been introduced, a visual and audible alarm security system designed to raise awareness when lifting. The self-contained device emits an acoustic alarm and a particularly bright LED flashing light and, like the BlokCam product, is designed for easy attachment to the hook block using neodymium magnets. The BlokAlert has up to 528 audible alarms and offers a choice of four beacon colors – blue, green, amber or red.

For a number of reasons, BlokCorp recommends the system as a safer alternative for the operator using the crane horn or for the riggers using a whistle. During operation, a signal is sent to the receiver on the hook block of the crane. By placing the warning system on the hook block, the alarms draw attention to, and not away from, the potential hazard, as can happen when the operator uses the crane’s horn or a boom uses an airhorn or whistle. Warning workers of the proximity of the hook block minimizes the risk of being hit by the crane hook block, lifting accessories, or load.

The BlokAlert comes with two hand tags that workers on the ground can use to set off the hook block alarm when they become aware of potential hazards. Each key fob is equipped with four buttons as standard, which can be used to control up to four separate block alarms. However, eight and 16 key fobs can be specified to control a larger number of alarms. To further increase safety, the optional cabin transmitter is activated by a foot switch in the crane cabin so that the crane driver can work hands-free.

The BlokAlert system has a built-in lithium battery with a battery life of 124 hours. It can be operated at temperatures between -10 and 50 degrees Celsius.

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BlokCorp's new BlokAlert

According to the manufacturer, a large British contractor is planning to implement the BlokAlert at all crane operating locations.

With its crane planner 2.0, Liebherr-Werk Nenzing is launching a new product for the planning of heavy-duty cranes that contains a new mobile CP app that transfers data for an elevator plan directly to a mobile device.

The OEM based in Austria points out that the organization of a construction site is a complex task that often results in a lack of space, difficult ground conditions or a limited load capacity of the crane. Under these circumstances, the Crane Planner 2.0 is a good tool to select the right equipment for every load scenario, save time and money and ensure that the safety standards for heavy-duty applications are met.

Crane Planner 2.0 combines detailed, interactive 3D models with all relevant planning data, based on the load torque limiter (LML) of the respective machine. Liebherr says that this combination is a great added value compared to conventional elevator planning with CAD applications.

“Every change to the crane geometry activates a new calculation of all planning data,” says Liebherr. “The software warns as soon as there is a risk of a possible collision between the machine, load or environment or safety distances are not maintained.

“Parameters such as ground pressure, occupancy, center of gravity and erectility are constantly monitored. In addition, important information such as lifting height or radius can be activated and user-defined measurements (metric or imperial) can be defined accordingly. Once planned, the results can be easily and clearly printed or shared with others in a cloud. “

The manufacturer says the tool is ideal for planners and engineers who need not only actual, but also precise 3D models of the machine configuration used. By using the latest machine data, all configurations of all available crawler cranes and work cycle crawler cranes can be selected in all positions.

The new CP Mobile App contains data on all Liebherr LR and HS machines that were built in or after 2002, including all elevator cards. Once the appropriate crane and load have been selected, ground pressure calculations can be performed quickly without costly planning, and the result can be professionally generated and exported as a report.

In the software industry, A1A Software has now introduced the first VR (Virtual Reality) simulator for elevator planning. With 3D Lift Vision, users can run a 3D lift plan in VR mode using a virtual reality headset and controls.

“Each simulation is as unique as the lift plan on which it is based,” says Tawnia Weiss, President at A1A Software. “There is no better way to visualize the outcome of an elevator than to allow the crane operator and other team members to simulate it in a virtual environment.”

There is no limit to the number of people who can take part in 3D Lift Vision. This allows the entire crane and rigging crew to see and practice a lift in the virtual environment, including the crane operator, rigger, signal person and slogan holder. “3D Lift Vision expands the ability of the 3D Lift Plan to be used as a communication and risk mitigation tool,” says Weiss.

Crane rental sales teams can use 3D Lift Vision to demonstrate to the customer where cranes and personnel will be placed and how to build the elevator according to the proposed elevator plan. To reduce the risk, the operator and the entire crane and rigging crew can practice the elevator before they arrive on site and thus assess whether something has changed in the vicinity of the construction site that has affected the elevator.

According to A1A Software, based in Florida, 3D Lift Vision requires an additional license to subscribe to the 3D Lift Plan. Each license comes with a headset. The hardware is portable and wireless, so it can be easily deployed anywhere. By communicating via the headset, people in different locations can participate in the same 3D lift vision simulation at the same time.

Finally, and appropriately given the current global pandemic, the Atlanta, US-based company OxBlue announced the development of artificial intelligence (AI) -based technology to increase awareness of social distancing on construction sites.

The company, which specializes in remote monitoring of construction sites with cameras, says its new system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine when two or more people are in close proximity. According to OxBlue, the technology has the potential to raise awareness and improve safety, and is suitable for those looking for alternative ways to create social distancing awareness.

“In a global pandemic, our top priority right now is harnessing the power of technology to solve the immediate challenges facing the construction industry,” said Chandler McCormack, CEO of OxBlue. “We want to enable possible solutions that enable actionable insights and security.”

Overhead innovation

The German company Conductix-Wampfler has introduced PowerGuard, a switching system for the maintenance of overhead traveling cranes that correctly switches off the power supply to the buffer and maintenance zones and then grounds the maintenance section to create a safe zone.

A crane maintenance zone is a designated area on the ladder pole runway that is turned off while the rest of the runway remains energized.

“PowerGuard was developed to offer a really safe solution for drawing electricity from areas of crane runways,” says Stephanie LaFarr, Product Manager at Conductix-Wampfler. “Previous solutions were not developed specifically for the crane market. Hence, they did not offer true isolation of power, leaving a window for failure that could lead to serious injury or death. “

The system increases user safety through visual LED indicators and test points on the PowerGuard control panel. These LEDs are connected to the wiring of the maintenance zone and indicate to the maintenance team that the maintenance zone is de-energized before starting work.

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Enerpac has expanded the capabilities of its range of portals

In the meantime, Enerpac Heavy Lifting technology has expanded the capabilities of its portal offering to enable heavy haulage companies to handle more demanding projects within the space constraints typical of industrial removals.

A new top swivel kit allows additional head beams to be fitted to the top of the sideshift unit. This allows cross members to be installed for more complex lifting arrangements. Also new are the end stops of the slideway, which prevent the portal legs from being driven over, a constructed cribbing and washers to ensure more precise leveling of the slideway and the track positions. This allows the portal legs and track to be raised in certain applications.

“The new accessories are a significant addition to our hydraulic portal range,” says Pete Crisci, Product Line Manager at Enerpac Heavy Lifting Technology. “The side swivel swivel joint in particular opens up the possibility of using Enerpac head beams and side shifts interchangeably with other head beams in order to achieve lifting configurations that are simply not possible with conventional portal lifting systems.”