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Essential Crane Camera Features to Focus On


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Editor's Note: This article appeared in the April 2021 edition of Crane Hot Line. You can find a link to the current and past editions of Crane Hot Line on the homepage at www.cranehotline.com.

 

April 9, 2021 - Jump into the driver’s seat of almost any newer piece of equipment and you’ll find a camera of some kind.

However, you’ll also find a lot of variation in features, durability, and cost.

How do you know if you have the right camera? What should your camera be doing for you?

There is a wish list of things you, a construction manager, crane owner, or operator, might want from a camera. Here are three essential camera features to focus on when purchasing a camera system for a crane.

 

Triple-Hardened Glass Lens

 

Camera lenses are available in many transparent materials. The two most common are plastic and glass.

While it may seem counterintuitive to install glass on heavy construction machinery, a triple-hardened glass lens is actually better than plastic.

Plastic lenses are less durable and, like all plastics, easily scratched. Also, plastic lenses build up static electricity, so they are dust magnets, a no-go on construction sites. Scratches and dust reduce visibility. Glass lenses resist both scratches and particle accumulation.

 

Anodized Aluminum Camera Body

 

Many cameras are made of die-cast aluminum, plastic, or stainless steel. Each of these has an Achilles’ heel. For example, die-cast aluminum is prone to defects and can be quite brittle in the cold, and if you put pressure on it, it can easily break.

Plastic is sometimes a good solution for caustic environments, but heat, cold, and sunlight can weaken the body over time. Plastic bodies may fade, become brittle, and break easily.

While stainless steel is durable and resists corrosion, it is expensive. Also, a major flaw of stainless steel is that it can rust easily if it’s scratched. When rust penetrates the camera body, it will fail.

So, what do we recommend? Camera bodies carved from a solid billet of anodized aluminum. Anodized aluminum (from a billet, not cast) is extremely durable. It will stand up to heat, cold, wetness, and caustic environments without corroding.

 

Wireless Option

 

For many kinds of heavy construction equipment, cables are just fine. For cranes, not so much. On cranes, wireless capabilities can make camera setup simpler and operation more reliable.

Why? For one thing, crane blocks travel up and down frequently, so a wireless block-mounted camera eliminates the need to run wires from the block to the boom and to manage them as the block travels. Even wired cameras mounted on the tip of a telescopic crane boom need to have a reel to manage the cable as the boom extends and retracts. All of the movement, be it block or boom, carries the potential to pinch or break a camera cable.

However, if you do opt to go the cable route, pick a provider that offers flexible silicone cables. The benefits? Silicone remains flexible in heat and cold. Many manufacturers use PVC-jacketed cables, but they become rigid in cold and degrade in heat. That can cause small breaks in the jacket, which allows water and particulates to penetrate and compromise cables.

Note, too, that some camera manufacturers offer adapter cables for third-party monitors. This is a great solution to save space and money by plugging into your existing monitor.

 

Other Considerations

 

One additional feature to think about is autofocusing. A camera that autofocuses can “look past” mud or dust on the lens to continue giving the user a view of the area it monitors. That eliminates having to stop and clean the camera in the middle of crane operation.

Durability is a huge consideration when selecting cameras for the crane industry. Equipment here needs to be able to take a beating. That’s why the IP (ingress protection) and IK (impact protection) ratings matter.

We recommend selecting a camera with the highest IP69 and IK10 ratings in this industry. IP69 cameras are best for heavy equipment used outdoors because they’re completely dustproof and waterproof. They can even be submerged indefinitely and withstand high-pressure power washes. The IK10 (highest) impact rating is important because it means the camera is durable and will withstand the highest level of rated impacts.

If a camera does break, it’s nice to work with a camera company that offers repairs. Dakota Micro is unique in the industry in that regard. Often, cameras are considered consumable. If you break it, you just buy a new camera. But some manufacturers offer repairable components that could save you lots of money over the lifetime of your product.

Finding the right camera system is important to ensure your investment brings you long-term benefits and return on investment. Not all camera systems are equal.

Camera selection will vary based on the application needs and working on a heavy-duty job site requires a heavy-duty camera. Focus on the considerations above to select the best camera to keep up with you.

 

By Mitch Stoeke, OEM sales representative for Dakota Micro Inc., an American manufacturer that specializes in making nearly indestructible commercial camera systems at its factory in North Dakota. Stoeke can be reached at mitch.stoeke@dakotamicro.net.

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