We at Trenox have been developing a solution to automate tower crane operations since 2016. The development process is ongoing, yet we are proud to claim that our automated tower crane will be globally one-of-a-kind – fully automated solutions are currently not on the market. Here’s a story of the four-year development process, and where it has taken us until today.
The development of our automated crane kicked off in 2016, together with students from Aalto University – read more about the background story here. Tower cranes have a lifespan of several decades. Because of this, we didn’t want to create a fully new tower crane, but a solution that would be compatible with today’s tower cranes. After finding out how cost-effective the solution could be even with existing technology, we launched the next phase of the process and began the actual development of the hardware for an automated tower crane.
A cost-efficient automated tower crane can be developed with existing technology and simple control logic
In 2017, the development focused highly on developing hardware for monitoring the position of the tower crane and giving control commands to the crane via computer. The first success in this field was achieved when the first anti-collision system was installed in Oulu, Finland. This system used the same GNSS positioning and control hardware as the crane automation would use in the future, and it proved to work exceptionally well in a construction site environment. In practice, this sector limiting system made sure that the hook of the crane would not move above train rails near the worksite. This system became one of our products already at the market: Trenox Link box.
Proof-of-concept: Automated tower crane performs simple tasks more efficiently than an experienced crane operator
In 2018, it was time to research the topic a bit further and one of Trenox employees, Simo Simolin, wrote his Master’s Thesis about automated tower crane technology. The process aimed to create a practical case about an automated crane – and the goals were reached in the summer of 2018. The tested system allowed tower crane hook to be moved anywhere at the operational area of the crane, the same way as the crane would work if an actual person was steering it. Moreover, the automated system managed to perform the given tasks more efficiently than a professional tower crane operator.
After this successful test in practice, our development has been focusing on improving the positioning and control hardware solutions even more, so they would meet every imaginable challenge of the construction site environment. Simultaneously, we realized that a high-performance crane camera and the anti-collision system will play a huge role in creating successful automation – and as a side-project, Trenox Crane Cam, Trenox Power Pack, and Trenox Anti-Collision were born. More tests have been run and in 2019, our automation system proved to be fully applicable in a 40-year-old Finnish, Betox crane.
What’s up in 2020?
In the past years, the main focus of our brainpower has been on developing the best possible hardware solutions that play a vital role as a foundation for the automated tower crane. Now it’s time to shift the focus on the software. Currently, our product development professionals are working hard with creating an even more stable and adjustable system. In a modern, digital world, the solution has to be flexible, and enable constant modifications in the features. Our experienced tower crane operators constantly provide us valuable information and observations from the worksites. This practical knowledge is the baseline of all our development work. If all goes well, our revamped automated tower crane will be tested at real worksites during the ongoing year. Stay tuned!