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1977 Komatsu D31S-16 Crawler Loader
Construction
engineering makes up a significant part of mankind’s history. Whether it is building for shelter, transportation (such as roadways, railways and canals), art, religion, or protection (dams, sewers, etc.), construction has been inherent in the nature of human beings.

Construction can typically be categorized into three types: building construction, heavy/highway construction, and industrial construction.

Contents

[edit] History

Construction has always peaked the interest of mankind. Evidence of this can be seen in the Egyptian pyramids, the Great Wall of China, and the structures and highways strewn across Europe and the ancient cities of Greece and Italy throughout the ages.

The methods and tools used to construct these man-made miracles are primitive, but proved effective enough to make structures and roads stand for centuries on end, prompting modern civilizations to marvel at their existence. Over time, however, these primitive tools were improved and innovated, particularly during periods demanding excessive and immediate use, such as in times of war or in the age of industrialization.

[edit] Early History: The Need for Construction

Most early construction projects involved building a structure or roadway and required at least minimal excavation. The first excavation tools consisted of hand shovels and pickaxes that removed dirt, placing it into horse-drawn wagons or baskets. Even wooden carriages with horses and oxplows can be traced back as far as 5200 years ago in Ancient Egypt. Their use birthed the conception of modern equipment such as the grader and scraper.

Other types of tools found their way in various construction projects throughout the ages. In the mid-third century B.C., layered terraces were constructed in Tell-Helaf in Mesopotamia to ward off the dangers of flooding. Similarly, dams and canals were built in Egypt for irrigation purposes as far back as 3200 B.C. Drawings depict the Pharaoh Serek with a pick in hand, digging irrigation canals.

Even religion seemed call to mankind with construction: large blocks of stone were piled upon one another to create the summit of Mount Knocknarea near Silgo in Ireland in 3000 B.C. This structure was built so the masses could pay homage to God. [1]

Accessible transportation was also a factor. Canals were constructed to improve the seaway routes and shorten the distances for ships importing and exporting goods between cities. As early as 1250 B.C., a ship canal was built between the Nile and the Red Sea to allow ships easy access. Although it silted within a hundred years, it marked the need for civilization to prepare for growing cities and increasing populations and marketplaces.

With the establishment of civilization came cities and towns that were made navigable by roadways. Even the early horse and buggies needed serviceable roads for easy passage. The oldest such road to be built was in the English kingdom of Wessex in 2700 B.C.. At 1.9 miles (3 km) long, running from the River Avon to Heel Stone near Stonehenge, it still exists and may be the origin of the word "avenue."

Roadworks became a large part of construction and a crucial way of mapping the world. Nations took this very seriously, with the Romans building a network of roads so extensive that their distance could run around the equator twice. [2]

Whatever the reason, construction seemed to be a common factor across many civilizations in the world. Its importance, not only for survival, but also for religion, transportation, progress, growth, and improvement of mankind seemed inevitable.

2003 John Deere 772CH Series II AWD Motor Grader

[edit] Early Machines

The earliest machines included plows, graders, scrapers, and excavators. The plow was a contraption used for roadbuilding. The earliest graders and scrapers appeared at the end of the 19th century. Inventors patented many different types: George Hendricks and Dudley Marvin, both Americans, invented two individual graders. In the industrial revolution, these were simply powered by steam engines, a common feature for most equipment of that time.

The first type of excavating machine was developed in the 18th century and was known as a floating dredger. Although this was used off land, its development marks the beginning of advanced machinery. The floating dredger consisted of a bucket chain and was driven by animals or manpower. In early days, resourceful workers even used wind power to help lift mud from the surface to be excavated. [3]The earliest recorded dredging device appeared in 1796 and was used for excavation work on the Port of Sunderland in England. Dredging machines were commonly used but it is their use inland that really changed the industry.

On land, construction projects took different forms. Earthmoving was carried out by horse-drawn wagons and manpower. As more and more construction projects were being conceived to fit a growing nation, more equipment and tools were required.

[edit] Industrial Revolution and Steam Power

The Industrial Revolution vastly impacted the construction industry, primarily with the invention of steam power. In the 18th century, steam power motivated the railway construction development. The railway was seen as a prime way of transporting goods to and from factories; they were much quicker than the canals, which were previously used.

The first automotive steam engine was invented by James Watt in England in 1765 and was used for mining. While steam was used for the dredger, an excavation device used in the water, it did not become a feature of land equipment until between the 1850s and 1900s when the railway was being built.

Constructing the railway was not a task to be taken lightly: hills had to be leveled; passageways for rivers had to be built; rocks were blasted and drilled; and valleys were filled in order to prepare the foundation for the railway. It was one of the biggest construction projects in the world. Beginning around the 1850s, it took almost 60 years to cover 18,641 miles (30,000 km) of rail track. Much of the railroad was built without any modern equipment whatsoever, as was the case with the track that was laid between Liverpool and Manchester, as well as London to Birmingham, which saw 11.7 million cubic yards (9 million m3) of earth removed. By 1890, the railways that followed throughout the world had reached 385,250 miles (620,000 km). An additional 23 years of building saw the length almost double at 684,000 miles (1.1 million km), due in part to the invention of new machinery. [4]

One man, William S. Otis, could clearly see the difficulties that arose in completing a project as vast and as laborious as this. In order to lower the costs of excavation and to get back on schedule, Otis designed a single-bucket excavator called the Otis Shovel for his contracting company, Carmichael & Fairbanks.

Otis used the invention of the steam engine, which had been around since the 1800s, and thought it might work with a bucket and an articulated arm. Mounted on rail tracks and consisting of a one-cubic yard (0.8-m3) dipper with a partial swing, it was the first of land excavation equipment to arrive. Otis patented his 1835 invention, a move that kept other manufacturers from further developing this useful machine for more than 40 years.[5]

In 1913, other manufacturers such as Osgood Dredge Co., Vulcan, and Bucyrus Foundry & Manufacturing, produced machines similar to the Otis Shovel. By this time, the excavator had taken off in a big way.

[edit] Railway Propels Inventions

1979 Caterpillar D8K Crawler Tractor - S-Dozer, Canopy, 8B Ripper
All early shovels were initially built for railway mounting and bore features similar to the Otis shovel. They were made from either a wooden or steel fame, used to support the machine’s boiler and boom. Otis’ invention stayed pretty much the same for about 100 years, when manufacturers slowly started to adapt the machine for other uses and begin designing it in different configurations.

Excavation was now the main process of construction. With steam power, it removed the time, cost, and manpower associated with it. Large projects were carried out and the excavator completed the projects in record time. One of the largest projects of the late 19th century was the Manchester Ship Canal in England. In 1887, fifty-eight Ruston steam shovels and 18 clamshell excavators, as well as other types of excavators, were employed to remove 54 million cubic yards (41 million m3) of earth during the course of six years.

The successful use of steam in excavators led to other types of steam-powered machines. Wheeled tractors, which replaced horses and mules, were able to pull scrapers and graders. Just after the 20th century, a crawler tractor powered by steam was invented and became a hit with the industry’s contractors. The crawler tractor first made an appearance in 1713 by Frenchman M. D’Hermand who created a crawler tread trailer that was propelled forward by the use of animals. The device became steam-driven in 1770 by Richard Edgeworth, who also patented the tracking tread system. The crawler tractor became a machine of its own after inventor Benjamin Holt developed a machine with more wheels, and, eventually, with crawler tracks that would allow it to easily advance over soft soil surfaces.[6]

Holt’s tracked crawler tractor was further improved by R. Hornsby & Sons, a manufacturing company based in Grantham England. Instead of steam, the crawler tractors used oil to fuel its power. Steam soon became a fuel of the past as more and more manufacturers begin developing machines to be powered by oil and gas engines. Eventually, diesel engines would become the norm.

[edit] Mobility in the 1900s

The 20th century became an era where innovation and technology dominated the industry. Now that machines were being developed to take over the many tasks of construction projects and they were powered efficiently, manufacturers began to focus on how they could be improved. One such way was transportation.

Initially, these machines were mounted on railways, when applicable, or consisted of steel or iron wheels. By the 1930s, machines were made with increased mobility, allowing contractors to move them around the site with ease. As machines became more advanced, they also increased in weight, making it more difficult to ship them from site to site. Large-capacity steel trailers were used for these purposes but the crawler tractor had to be adapted to be able to move around the site with little maneuverability. Earthmoving equipment became increasingly mounted on wheels, giving them higher speeds, more mobility, and hassle-free transportation.

[edit] Hydraulics and Pneumatics

After World War II, the construction industry experienced another change. A law created by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century indicated that when pressure is placed on a fluid, it is pushed equally throughout its surrounding area. Teaming this law with a set of pistons in a cylinder, oil could be used to push the pistons up and down, creating a force that could be applied to machinery. Even though the use of hydraulics appears as early as the 1600s, it did not take form in construction equipment until after World War II.

Building equipment operated by hydraulics had and continues to have many benefits: the maneuverability of machines has increased exponentially. The arm of an excavator can move with precision and accuracy. The movement that hydraulics provides is a much smoother and cleaner operation than that of previous mechanisms. One of the first hydraulic machines was the hydraulic excavator, produced by Carlo and Mario Bruneri in 1948 when they mounted a hydraulic excavator on wheels. Soon after, other prototypes would follow and hydraulics began to become a feature in many machines, including cranes and scrapers.

Pnuematics, which follows a similar mechanism to hydraulics, uses compressed air instead of oil. Not only were excavators, dump trucks, cranes, and more utilizing pneumatics, but it could even be found in tires.

[edit] Construction and the Future

Although construction has changed in its methods and machinery, its purpose remains the same. From the beginning of time, mankind has been inherently growing towards a civilization made up of structures and roadways. Whether construction is used to provide shelter and habitation, or for transportation means, flood prevention or irrigation, roads, railways, or for any other purpose, construction still means the same to civilization today as it did centuries and centuries before.

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[edit] References

  1. Cohrs, Heinz –Herbert. The Classic Construction Series: 500 Years of Earthmoving. KHL Group: Wadhurst, 1995.
  2. Cohrs, Heinz –Herbert. The Classic Construction Series: 500 Years of Earthmoving. KHL Group: Wadhurst, 1995.
  3. Haddock, Keith. The Earthmoving Encyclopedia. Motorbooks: St. Paul, 2005.
  4. Cohrs, Heinz –Herbert. The Classic Construction Series: 500 Years of Earthmoving. KHL Group: Wadhurst, 1995.
  5. Sheryn, Hinton J. An Illustrated History of Excavators. Ian Allan Publishing: Shepperton, 2000.
  6. Logger. Mainerec. 2008-09-30.