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Redefining heavy lifting

The revolutionary fibers behind the world’s most ambitious heavy lifting projects

Nico Janssen, Segment Manager Industrial Markets at DSM, gives his take on the massive engineering and industrial projects driving change in the heavy lifting market – and the fibers needed to realize the most ambitious new projects.


The world of heavy lifting and transportation is more complex and technically demanding than ever, and I’m frequently astounded by the size and scale of projects my work brings me into contact with. These increasingly ambitious engineering projects are placing new demands on operators and equipment. At the same time, intense competition is adding pressure to deliver results faster and cheaper, while maintaining safety and reliability. All of us working in this sector know that managing conflicting demands is a major challenge for an industry that is faced with an aging workforce and increasing safety regulations.

These increasingly ambitious engineering projects are placing new demands on operators and equipment.

The giant projects redefining heavy lifting

Perhaps the starkest example I’ve seen of the changing demands on heavy lifting technology and transportation comes from the offshore wind farm market, where everything from the monopiles and masts, to turbines and blades, keep getting bigger. The remote locations of these wind farms present additional challenges to today’s cranes and installation equipment. 

Turbines have grown massively in size over the last few years, with structures the height of the Eiffel Tower currently being designed. Earlier this year, the world’s largest wind turbine emerged from the waves in the North Sea to stand 191m high. With the largest project currently in development reaching an astonishing 290m in height, traditional materials aren’t up to the job of lifting these enormous structures into place – requiring the development of new equipment and smarter installation techniques. 

Back on land, I’ve seen larger and more complex projects challenging the current way of working and resulting in an overhaul of lifting equipment. This is, for instance, leading to the development of cranes with much larger hoisting heights and load capacities than we’ve ever seen before.

It’s clear that fulfilling these major projects requires significant changes to the way the heavy lifting market operates.

It’s clear that fulfilling these major projects requires significant changes to the way the heavy lifting market operates. The increasing complexity and scale of projects means that steel wire lifting equipment is starting to reach its limits and may even contribute to the complexity of projects. A change in the way of working is needed and, in some areas, is already happening.

Making this new vision a reality

The use of lightweight equipment based on synthetic materials instead of heavyweight steel is going to support this new way of working. At DSM, we know that many of the companies responsible for the world’s most ambitious lifting projects are already working with synthetic fibers to ensure project success.

For example, crane manufacturer Liebherr has worked in collaboration with rope manufacturer Teufelberger to develop a high strength fiber rope for crane operations. Elsewhere, Manitowoc and rope expert Samson were the first to bring the advantages of synthetic fiber lines to mobile crane operators with the introduction of the K-100™, a synthetic rope for mobile cranes.

Beyond synthetic hoist ropes, the industry has also embraced lifting slings made with synthetics over the last few years. ALE has used synthetic slings made with Dyneema® – the world’s strongest fiber – for the world’s biggest crane project, AL.SK350, and freed up an extra 57t lifting capacity. This contributed to the crane making a record beating lift of 3000t in 2017.

read the case study

Elsewhere, Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), which used the Green Pin Tycan® synthetic link chains made with Dyneema® for the installation of monopiles for the Beatrice Wind Farm project, saw major benefits for health, safety and quality, with reduced overall costs. Frits van Dorst, SHL Project Engineer, said at the time: “Where possible, we prefer synthetic equipment for lashing and lifting, for easier, faster and more ergonomic handling versus steel.”

read the case study

What makes new, lightweight, synthetic solutions perfect for these major heavy lifting projects?

Light, strong, and efficient

Both above and below the hook, the industry is embracing a transformation to lightweight lifting solutions, whether slings, hoist ropes or chains. The exceptional strength-to-weight ratio of synthetic solutions built with Dyneema® significantly reduce the weight and size of the equipment, as well as reducing the effort required for use by crews.

Synthetic lifting equipment made with Dyneema® is up to eight times lighter than steel for the same strength. As a result, for the lashing of delicate, heavy, and oversized cargo, synthetic solutions offer clear benefits in terms of speed and efficiency. Paul Janssen of Janssen Group estimates a time saving of 10-50% for securing cargo to trucks when switching from steel chains to chains made from Dyneema®

In this age of intense competition and innovation in heavy lifting, it pays to work smarter. At DSM – the manufacturer of Dyneema® fiber – we’re supporting the industry in finding safer and more efficient ways to work. By offering lightweight synthetic solutions as an alternative to more traditional materials, we are providing the solutions needed to support the world’s largest, most complex, and most ambitious engineering and lifting projects.