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Creativity

History of the Crane

Alice-India Garwood
by Alice-India Garwood on May 16, 2018

Cranes are the most iconic innovation of the construction industry. Sitting on the skylines of towns and cities all over the world as a symbol for growth and change, the crane has been helping us create and build since time immemorial. And you won’t believe how much this familiar technology has changed!

We almost take for granted the strength of these incredible machines, the capability of a modern crane to carry and move around 20 tons is no mean feat. 

"Sitting on the skylines of towns and cities all over the world as a symbol for growth and change"

That said, did you know that many ancient monuments and temples had stone blocks weighing anywhere from 30 - 500 tons and were lifted as high as 30ft? Our ancient ancestors were geniuses of engineering.

Ancient engineering and construction cranes[Photo Credit: Interesting Engineering]

The first cranes were thought to be used as long ago as 6BC by the Ancient Greeks. From what archaeologists and historians can unravel from the clues left behind, the crane was seen as the most efficient way to build their temples - sound familiar?

"The first cranes were thought to be used as long ago as 6BC by the Ancient Greeks."

Originally using rope and hoists, there were developments in winch and pulley systems allowing them to move heavier loads, further distances.

In Ancient Rome, we see the invention of the treadwheel crane. The Romans developed cranes with better efficiency, assembly and deconstruction. The Roman designed treadwheel cranes were used up until the 18th century.

Medieval Treadmill Construction Crane[Photo Credit: MiniScaping]

With a large wooden hamster wheel, this allowed space for two people to stand inside and turn the wheel like a crank which had rope wrapped around the axel which powered the pulley system. To pedal the wheel required a huge amount of strength and stamina.

"This allowed space for two people to stand inside and turn the wheel"

Without the Roman treadwheel design we may never have had the iconic medieval cathedrals that dot the landscape of Europe today. There would have been no other way to lift stones, some of which were the size of cars. It is believed in medieval times that the cranes were lifted up in parts and or with smaller cranes. 

As time went on, we begin to see developments which have almost directly lead to the cranes we know so well today.

Bramley engineering crane 18th century construction[Photo Credit: Leeds Engine]

15th century French physicist Blaise Pascal worked a great deal on fluid hydrodynamics and went on to invent the hydraulic press. We can see some centuries later, Pascal’s work in the cranes of the 18th century where his hydraulic principles were incorporated.

"We are still to this day working with Blaise Pascal’s incredible innovation."

Although the hydraulic cranes we work with today are far more advanced than their 18th century ancestors, we are still to this day working with Blaise Pascal’s incredible innovation. Which we think is very cool.

Modern Hydraulic Crane[Photo Credit: PluralSight]

It’s an amazing evolutionary story and we are seeing more developments on the horizon for the crane as we move more in to smart technology, AI and VR on our construction sites.

Tags: Creativity

AUTHOR
Alice-India Garwood

Alice-India Garwood

Content Marketing Executive at Bobtrade. Interested in design, sustainability and the history of construction. I love all things indie and theatrical.