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Exploring the idea of automating tower cranes



Last Updated: 2-2018


There exists a difference between increasing project complexity and the shortfall in adoption of new technologies in the AEC industry. Because, the pre- and post-construction phases both are of similar nature every project, it is more straightforward to develop improvements for those. Therefore, this thesis encompasses the automation of tower cranes, as it exploits
technology into the execution phase. The research adopts a funneling method that starts with a literature review, consisting of current practices, the use of BIM and sensor technology. The statements found here, are
evidenced and further examined with the help of an example project and expert interviews. Together, this basis shapes an exploration that combines every (technological) aspect necessary to automate a tower crane, operating in construction projects. Consecutively, it serves as platform for listing the remaining challenges that need solutions in order to realize
the overall notion. Further depth is achieved in the development of a prototype that potentially deals with the challenge of CLP coordination problems due to (un)predictable variables resulting in structural deformation of tower cranes. Several experimental tests are used to scale up the prototype towards a functioning proof-of-concept. The findings of this
thesis show that the automation of tower cranes is highly complex and involves the complete construction process. From the start, a central management platform accessible to all stakeholders is important. Furthermore, use of BIM to a high extend serves the input of data
to the tower crane. However, there exists a deviation between the digital situation and reality. This deviation requires adjustment of the CLPs generated in the pre-constructional phase, making real-time data acquisition another important aspect of tower crane automation. The sensors used in the prototype show the potential of using real-time data to improve
automated tower crane operations. The findings of this research indicate that much effort remains in the development of BIM use in the entire industry. It should become possible to plan processes in more detail and compare them to the realistic situation in real-time. This, in combination with the implementation of multiple sensor technologies serves the idea of automating tower cranes.

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