Understanding Tower Crane Operation – How does it work?


When driving through an area bustling with construction and new developments, it’s nearly impossible to overlook who’s doing the real heavy lifting: cranes. Everyone knows these powerful machines are necessary to the construction of any building or structure, but have you ever driven past one and wondered how cranes work?

As the most recent reported fatalities involving cranes continue to fluctuate annually, a good understanding of the inner workings of cranes is crucial in ensuring safety on a job site. Anyone with an interest in the world of construction, whether as a profession or out of sheer curiosity, should know just how these mighty machines function from day to day.

What makes up a tower crane? Here we will focus on the tower crane, which is the most commonly employed type of crane on large-scale construction endeavors, such as skyscrapers.

Tower cranes are able to construct such massive structures due to their unique and complex design with several moving parts. At the base of a tower crane lies a concrete foundation that anchors to the ground for security, from which a long tower of stacked lattice emerges. At the brink of this tower is a turntable (essentially the crane’s rotator) and the operator’s cab, where the crane operator sits while communicating with other workers and controlling the movement of the crane.

Moving along the long, arm-like jib that extends from the top of the tower is a long trolley and hook block, which lift loads vertically along the extent of the jib. The crane’s main winch sits behind the operator’s cab and contains the motors for the trolley, which riggers at the bottom of the crane secure onto the load. On the other side of the cab sits a counterjib and counterweights, which balance the weight endured by the jib and are supported by pendants from the tower peak of the crane.

How Are Tower Cranes Constructed?

With a makeup as intricate as that of a tower crane, the best way to construct one is by using other cranes. After laying the tower crane’s concrete foundation, builders use a mobile crane (typically for constructing smaller-scale buildings and machinery) to construct and connect key pieces of the crane, such as the jib, operator’s cab, motors, and turntable. Then, with the help of a hydraulic jack, they use what exists of the crane to masterfully construct the rest of the machine’s own tower.

From constructing massive buildings to constructing itself, the tower crane is one of the most versatile pieces of machinery in the world of construction. Without them, we would never know big cities as we do today, and magnificent skyscrapers that stretch up into the clouds would be left to the imagination. Remember what made these innovations possible every time you stumble upon a construction site, and to learn more, be sure to check out this helpful animated crane visual from the BigRentz team below.