AIA-auto_bodySituated on the University of Michigan campus in Dearborn, MI, is the Institute for Advanced Vehicle Systems (IAVS). Faculty and students conduct research on low-mass vehicles, power trains, manufacturing processes, and auto body and chassis systems.

Recently, IAVS added a two-story, 46,000-square-foot building to its circular test facility. JM Olson Corp. was the gen-eral contractor for the project, and architectural firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent designed the structure.

The expansion allows IAVS researchers to use a 5-ton pivoting circular crane to lift and maneuver vehicle parts and equipment anywhere in the main test room. IAVS commissioned North American Industries Inc. (NAI) to create and install the crane. NAI custom designs, manufactures and installs many types of industrial overhead cranes, including bridge, gantry, jib and monorails.

NAI senior project engineers spent many hours designing the pivoting circular crane for IAVS. Usually, a crane travels down a linear path. However, the crane for IAVS moves in a circular path like a jib crane. It also shares similarities with a bridge crane in that it rides on a runway.

The crane is positioned in the center of the facility and travels 360 degrees around the circular test room. One side rides on a rail around a center pole. The other side runs on a runway attached to the outer circular wall that forms the structural shape of the building. Inner and outer rails are bent to form the appropriate circular path for end trucks, which are wheeled sections that permit the crane to travel along the rails.

NAI custom-designed the end trucks so they align with the curved rail through a 360-degree radius. The inner end truck features two idler wheels and four pairs of side-guide rollers that keep the crane on the rail while traveling around the building’s center column.

The crane has a 53-foot span and can lift loads up to 30 feet high. The floor area over which the hoist can maneuver is 7,600 square feet (including the hook approaches). The volume of the cylinder in which the hoist operates is nearly 228,000 cubic feet.

To maximize safety, NAI provided radio remote controls so that the operator can work the crane from any location, while standing away from dangerous loads.
For more information on circular cranes, call 800-847-8470 or visit