At the Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems (IAVS), part of the University of Michigan at Dearborn, faculty and student researchers conduct studies and experiments on auto body and chassis systems and other critical automobile research.  The IAVS’ recent building expansion plan called for a new crane to lift and maneuver vehicle parts and equipment anywhere in the main test room.


Second Quarter 2010

Case Study: University of Michigan Calls on NAI to Develop Custom Design for Unique Overhead Lifting Requirement

Unique Overhead Lifting Crane

IAVS needed a custom-engineered crane to travel 360° around the circular test room. This crane’s design called for one side of the crane to ride on a rail around a center pole and the other side to sit on a runway attached to the outer circular wall that forms the structural shape of the building. The inner and outer rails had to be bent to form the appropriate circular path for the end trucks.

North American Industries (NAI) worked with IAVS personnel to custom design and install a radio remote controlled 5-ton pivoting circular crane. NAI engineered the end trucks so they aligned properly with the curved rail through a 360° radius. The inner end truck was built with two idler wheels and four pair of side-guide rollers to keep the inner end truck on the rail while traveling around the building’s center column.

The crane’s span is approximately 53 feet, and the floor area over which the hoist can maneuver is about 7,600 square feet. With the ability to lift loads up to 30 feet high, the volume of the cylinder in which the hoist operates is nearly 228,000 cubic feet.

Because the crane was operating in an educational facility, safe control was a primary issue.  NAI provided radio remote controls so that the operator can work the crane from any location, standing away from dangerous loads. 

The crane design was a significant departure from standard bridge crane configurations, where the crane travels down a linear path. Although the crane moves in a circular path like a jib crane, it also shares similarities with a bridge crane in that it operates by riding on a runway. NAI’s senior project engineers designed the unusual lifting system specifically to meet the needs of this customer.