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Crane Hot Line

Caldwell Experts Share Insights about Modular Spreader Beams

Two experts from below-the-hook lifting solutions manufacturer The Caldwell Group Inc. recently shared insights about modular spreader beams.

Malcolm Peacock, business development specialist, and Tom Eicher, director of engineering, said that, as the below-the-hook sector continues to evolve, it’s important to understand the latest rigging concepts, particularly modular spreader beams.

Many end users are still at the lower end of a learning curve about spreader beams, particularly the modular concept, whereby components are pieced together to construct the final lifting product. In fact, some people still choose to “make their own” beams, despite the fact that there are now American-made, versatile, certified systems that can be procured at short notice.


Interestingly, while the quest for heavier lifts and higher capacity cranes is a distraction for many, Caldwell is noting demand being driven by a trend even more in vogue—versatility.


First, when might a need for a spreader beam arise?


Put simply, it’ll be when an item being lifted needs to be protected from either compressive (crushing) forces, which might be created by a sling angle; or when a long load, such as a monopile for an offshore wind turbine or vessel, may otherwise be unstable.


To clarify the terminology: a spreader beam is a compression type lifter, while a lifting beam is a moment type design product. The selection will depend on many factors, commonly available headroom. Such variables will also dictate if a standard or custom product will be required.


The load often leads us to the type of beam chosen, although the weight and type of spreader must also be considered and built into the lifting plan. The crane must be capable of taking both the total load and also have the required radius or available height. There are situations where the crane may dictate the type of beam, such as where you may have two hoists being used in tandem to pick from a single point. In this case we may see the spreader in an inverted (upside down) fashion.


Note that multi-layered rigs (also called cascading rigs or even Christmas trees) would often be used when there are multiple or unevenly positioned lifting points on the load, and / or where the center of gravity is offset.


Lighten the Load


The first thing to accept about modular spreader beams is that there are inherent advantages to their use. For example, they are lightweight due to their unique design and the modular aspect makes them easy to transport and store. Further, single components are readily available so systems can be adapted over time or to suit the needs of a particular application. One full system can provide multiple configurations, adding to the adaptability of the concept.


Modular spreader beams are no more suited to one market than another. Manufacturers, like Caldwell, can design a solution for any application and within reason there aren’t any limits to how high they can go in terms of capacity. Complications can be experienced in the testing of larger spreader beams, but a third party can verify engineering criteria, or a test can be completed at a specialist facility.


Some users are cautious about modular below-the-hook products because of the requirement to assemble them onsite. Gradually, purchasing decision makers are coming around to the idea that this isn’t a good reason to avoid them. Manufacturers provide full data sheets, including instructions on assembly, in the form of a simple step-by-step guide. A qualified rigger will have the required knowledge to assemble and use modular spreader beams.


Of course, we recommend that all users be trained and qualified in lifting and rigging operations; modularity doesn’t change that prerequisite.


The Right Tool for the Job


From modular spreader beams to the hooks, shackles, and slings that comprise most rigs, it is vitally important that the right tool is selected for the job at hand. We’ve explored the versatility of modular spreader beams, but care must be taken prior to each use to ensure the product is fit for purpose, in terms of length, weight, capacity, rigging, etc. Selecting the right product results in protecting the equipment in use, the job site and, most importantly, the people involved. Experienced application specialists should be sought if a user is unsure about any component of their lifting application.


Selecting the right tool for the job might mean not using a modular spreader beam. For example, if someone has the requirement to adjust their spreader many times over the course of a day it may be more beneficial to opt for a telescopic or adjustable spreader beam. We always recommend speaking with the customer and obtaining as much detail as possible to ensure they get the most suitable solution.


In conclusion, it is important to choose manufacturers of lifting and spreader beams that are lifting engineers and below-the-hook specialists. Caldwell, for example, can offer a complete solution; applications specialists can work with the customer to closely look at the item(s) to be lifted and establish a solution, and our engineers will design the solution and once approved it can be manufactured and tested in house.


In other words, choose partners that can offer a solution from inception all the way through to performing the lift.


Crane Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.