How Cranes Are Creating Efficiency in Aerospace

Crane being used during airplane repair

Whether they’re building spacecraft, commercial aircraft, military helicopters, or single-engine planes, manufacturers in the aerospace industry must lift, turn, and position large, heavy components every day.

There are many ways to do this, from ride-on vehicles like forklifts to conveyor belts and overhead equipment. However, aerospace manufacturers are increasingly turning to cranes and other hoist systems to precisely place critical equipment in ongoing construction projects.

There are many different types of cranes, including custom-designed and for-purpose varieties, and successful use of cranes has added cutting-edge efficiency to the aerospace field. As discussed below, choosing the optimal crane or hoist for your project relies mainly on determining the most productive, efficient, and safe system for your purposes.

In general, cranes add increased flexibility, reliability, precision, and safety to your project. These benefits apply not only to aircraft production but also to the maintenance of all types of large construction. More specifically, cranes can:

  • Transport heavy, bulky components along assembly lines
  • Provide flexible building techniques for everything from aircraft fuselage to tails and wings
  • Be configured to meet any process requirement
  • Span more than 90 m
  • Link multiple working areas with interlocking systems
  • Improve worker safety and transportation using semi-automated processes

The Aerospace Assembly Process

Efficiently assembling your aerospace project is the most labor-intensive phase of getting your plane on the runway. Sheet parts often lack precision, and they have large technological tolerances that require manual adjustment.

Typically, facilities that assemble aircraft come equipped with a network of overhead rails designed for heavy-lifting cranes used to move bulky parts. Engineers and automated processes crane fuselage into position using supporting fixtures or jigs and then weld them together. After using cranes to hold the top part of the frame in place while welding them together, engineers attach other elements such as the chassis, wings, and tail.

Generally, aerospace manufacturers only use cranes for heavier aircraft, as it is more efficient to move light- and medium-weight aircraft with forklifts and similar machinery.

Process Cranes for Aviation

Aerospace engineers design process cranes for specific production processes. In the aviation industry, process cranes and hoist units must meet the manufacturer’s specific requirements. Potential modifications include:

  • Multiple runway cranes to bridge large building spans
  • Devices that expedite trolley transfer, thus linking multiple work areas
  • Rotating crabs to optimize available space
  • Telescoping platforms to aid in maintaining and overhauling aircraft or applying paint finishes to large sections of the aircraft at once
  • Special workshop designs to aid in maintaining turbines

Overhead Cranes

Overhead cranes help efficiently transport aircraft components between assembly steps and facilities during the manufacture, maintenance, and inspection of aerospace equipment. Overhead cranes optimize equipment loading and unloading, allowing easier movement of material throughout the facility. They are particularly important in the production of composite aircraft wings.

Well-designed overhead cranes are compact and flexible, and they can operate in confined spaces. Operators can position them easily and accurately, and their controls allow precise maneuvering of heavy parts.

Overhead cranes include safe load capacity restrictors and traffic-type amber flashing lights to maximize safety and warn other workers of their approach.

Aerospace Depends on Ultimate Efficiency

Cranes are a vital factor in the aircraft assembly process, and they are instrumental in all aspects of the heavy airplane assembly process.

As the aerospace field continues to embrace technological advances, aerospace manufacturers increasingly rely on cranes to provide targeted support to all aspects of the manufacturing process.


Image credit: aapsky /

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