From driverless vehicles to robots that can weld huge components independently, the realm of automated technology is advancing rapidly. As this applied science evolves, the crane and rigging industry is seeing more cranes and related equipment operated by remote control, especially for hyper-specific applications. Increasing stability, safety and efficiency, remote control systems are taking heavy machinery operations to new heights.
At its June Customer Days event in Germany, Liebherr demonstrated several cranes using remote control capabilities.
According to Liebherr, all mobile cranes equipped with the LICCON2 control system are programmed to be operated via remote control. That includes all LTF-cranes (truck mounted), all LTR-cranes (telescopic boom crawler cranes), the compact crane LTC 1050-3.1 and the complete range of LTM-cranes (all-terrain), with the exception of the LTM 1400-7.1, LTM 1500-8.1 and LTM 11200-9.1.
“LICCON2 is Liebherr’s mobile crane control system that allows for easy and economical operation via complete radio remote control of the crane,” said Wolfgang Beringer, sales promotion, Liebherr-Werk Ehingen. “Apart from the appropriate software in the crane, all that is needed is a console with two master switches, into which the BTT (standard) is plugged in. A major advantage for the crane operator is that the console can also be used for other cranes with the LICCON2 control system which are programmed for radio remote control.”
The LICCON 2 crane control system can automatically interpolate the load charts for the outrigger position and slewing angle and also gives individual outrigger pad load readings as the crane is operated, thus ensuring safe and easy operation even in constricted work areas where full outrigger extension is not possible. While small, one-man operated cranes lend themselves to remote controlled operation, larger cranes are now utilizing remote controls for assembly and rigging.
“The cranes control LICCON as well as the extension for remote control is developed by Liebherr in-house,” said Klaus Weckenmann product manager, Liebherr-Werk Ehingen. “This is all from one source. So, we can develop, adapt and test without a third party. Another important advantage is that we can grant long term spare parts supply, which may not be possible, when you depend on an external supplier.”
Altec has impacted the remote control realm with its own system designed for boom trucks.
“Altec’s radio remote displays the same critical information that operators have come to rely on with the Altec Load Moment and Area Protection System (LMAP),” said Dan Brock, Altec’s crane market manager. “The same layout of information from the LMAP is visible on the portable remote which can be used when running the machine from the ground or from an elevated position. The information displayed on the remote increases the situational awareness of operators, improving overall jobsite safety, productivity and operator convenience.”
This remote features a large and easy-to-read full color display that shows unit configuration, outrigger position, load capacity, slew angle and jib and platform installation. These critical parameters inform the operator of the unit’s configuration, enabling the safe and productive use of the machine. In addition, the user-defined settings such as engine speed, function speed and emergency stop are positioned to allow seamless operation when transitioning from the lower controls to the remote.
“For Altec, by and large the most prolific use of radios is for platform work via one of our boom trucks or a dual-rated unit like the AC40-152S or AC45-127S,” Brock said. “The new radio with display provides that critical information to operators controlling the machine at height via the radio.”
Effer articulating cranes, which are distributed by Altec, also have the option of radio control. The radios are fully proportional and allow for smooth operation of the unit from the ground, the bed of the truck or via a platform for working at height. One of the many benefits of using radio remotes is to be able to operate from a position that provides the best point-of-view of the load being handled.
A wide spectrum
HBC-radiomatic products control a variety of cranes including overhead cranes, tower cranes, self-erecting cranes, mobile truck cranes, all-terrain cranes and rough terrain cranes. In addition, HBC also has products for controlling transport systems, trailers, dollies, lift trucks and gantries. HBC-radiomatic controls are used in a broad range of industries, including mining, manufacturing, oil and gas, entertainment, utilities, construction, agriculture, transportation, automation and logistics, among others.
The evolution of remote control solutions has led to increased demand, according to HBC-radiomatic.
“We do see a higher demand for radio remote controls. The safety initiatives that are driving the industry have increased this demand,” said Jeff Allan, CEO, HBC-radiomatic. “The use of radio remote controls removes the operator out of the potentially hazardous or fixed area and provides them with the visibility to see the load, to see the operating area and maintain the equipment from the best vantage point.”
As radio control technology evolves, operators will be provided with a rich set of features beyond the intrinsic advantages associated with operator safety and added productivity. Remote control solutions will continue to expand, Allan said.
“The applications for radio remote controlled cranes or equipment today are virtually limitless,” Allan said. “The capability of today’s radio remote controls can offer the same amount of control as if the operator were in the cab or at the control station. The operator will have the same amount of machine feedback from the equipment via multiple types of feedback from a display screen, LEDs, audible or haptic feedback and even live video feedback.”
“The biggest advantage to having all of this in the operator’s hands will allow them to physically position themselves in the safest area with the best possible vantage point for the work being performed,” Allan continued. “Also, this will allow the operator to inspect the rigging and improve communication on the jobsite.”
A key asset
Most of the gantries and specialized lifting equipment produced by Lift Systems and Riggers Manufacturing have a remote control option, according to Ben Forster, vice president. When asked about how many customers opt for remote-control options, Forster, said, “It depends on the customer and their application, and their operational philosophy.”
Forster said that remote control applications are especially important on jobsites where there might be more operational risk than normal, and when having personnel too close to the load poses a threat.
Remote control is an asset for jobs that require optimal viewing of the load.
Magnetek solves Summit’s challenges
The Mini-PGT allows for smooth operations of Summit service truck cranes.
Wathena, KS-based Summit Truck Bodies custom designs trucks used for service and maintenance of heavy equipment.
Magnetek stepped in when Summit needed a remote control solution that offered longer battery life and a stable platform for its service truck cranes. Magnetek’s challenge was to incorporate compact transmitters and custom engineer miniature joysticks. The solution was the Magnetek Mini-PGT transmitter that enables finer, more precise movements. Simultaneously, Magnetek also began developing a smaller, “mini” product that could be integrated into Summit’s truck control systems due to backwards compatibility with full-sized PGT transmitters. Two Mini-PGT transmitter types were designed for Summit’s applications: a primary package and a retrofit package.