The Future of Heavy Equipment

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Future of Heavy Equipment


Frequently when we are thinking about the future, we are thinking about the very small, from nanotechnology to microscopy advances. But technology to come will also be produced at scales that are unfathomable to us now. 

When it come to large-scale engineering, the future may put some of our current accomplishments far behind them. From architecture, to space travel to science, technological developments promise to unleash huge new machinery possibilities.


Skyscrapers in the future promise to push much higher up than those on the planet today. The developing world is where many of these buildings will be constructed. For instance, China will be home to 21 of the world's tallest 50 skyscrapers by 2020, and Dubai is already well known for the impressively tall Burj Khalifa and other tall buildings. 

The Jeddah Tower, under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, will at completion in 2020 reach unprecedented heights becoming the tallest building in the world, as well as the first structure to reach the one-kilometre-high mark.

Jeddah Tower

The structure will be home to the world’s highest observatory. It will also have a separate, 98-foot-diameter outdoor balcony, which was originally intended to be a helipad.

Tall building construction requires massive machinery too, from the construction vehicles and cranes, to the elevators, and building services inside the structures. 

As vertical farming becomes more viable and profitable, the machinery and automation required for massively tall farms will make hydroponics today look infantile. 

The future needs very large buildings too.  Tesla's battery production facility now under construction in Nevada is called the 'Gigafactory.' 

Tesla Gigafactory

At a planned production rate of 500,000 cars per year in the latter half of this decade, Tesla alone will require today’s entire worldwide production of lithium ion batteries. The Tesla Gigafactory was kicked-off from the company's necessity and will supply enough batteries to support projected electric vehicle demand.

Related articles
Also, building and construction in the future may be as much about what is going on under the Earth's surface as above. Tunnel boring machines are already massive machines. For instance, Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct construction recently used the world’s largest tunnel borer: a 300-foot long, 7,000 ton, five stories-high driller named Bertha.

What might be a bigger overall impact though may be the scale of tunneling projects themselves. Elon Musk, for instance recently outlined his plans to bore many tunnels under Los Angeles as a way to alleviate traffic congestion.


Mining equipment is historically very large, and the pinacle of earth moving was Germany's Bagger 293, a giant bucket-wheel excavator built in 1995. At around 315 feet tall, 740 feet long, and weighing over 31 million pounds, the machine required a crew of five to operate and could move over 8.5 million cubic feet of earth per day. 

Bagger 293

To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of digging a hole the length of a football field and over 80 feet deep in a day.

While coal mining is hopefully not going to be in huge demand in the future, there will no doubt descendants to the massive machines the industry uses.


The space industry has historically been behind some of the largest equipment ever made. This is not only referring to the spaceships themselves, but to the machines used to make, test and train astronauts. From NASA's Super Guppy transport plane that carries spaceships, to the clean rooms used to build satellites, space is all about scale.

Super Guppy

With the commercialization of the industry, the pattern is not always for smaller, cheaper, faster either.

The Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) proposed by SpaceX to ferry people and equipment to and from Mars would involve truly gargantuan equipment. The proposed vehicle launch stack, is taller and wider than the Apollo Saturn V, the previous (and still largest) rocket ever.

SpaceX Mars Vehicle

Although only a small portion of the SpaceX workforce is being committed to the ITS system, the company was able to produce a full-scale development upper stage spaceship liquid oxygen tank. It is made of an advanced carbon fiber composite.

SpaceX Large equipment


Robotics is already a huge economic force, and in the future, the size of this industry's impact will also be matched by the size of robotic devices and machines. Already, the largest earth-moving and mining equipment is nearly self driving. 

Increasingly machines from the other categories in this list, and others like agriculture will see increasing automation and incorporation of robotics technologies. These devices will need a variety of electronics and sub-components like a donaldson air filter.

robot tractor

Within the next decade, farming as we know it is expected to be revolutionized by the use of self-driving tractors and robots that can perform time-consuming tasks now done by people. Much of the same work that is being put to used to make self driving cars a reality can be repurposed for farming, construction and other activities, and these machines may grow in scale as a consequence.  

Heavy equipment of all kinds may eventually begin to move in the direction of artificial intelligence, as we usher in a new era of technology.  Soon advances in robotics may find robotic bulldozers that can operate themselves independent of a human driver may become an common thing at construction sites of the future.


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland is the largest science experiment to date, and the real estate occupied by the machine is immense. Ironically, this massive device has been built to detect the smallest particles in existence. The particle accelerator is built within a circular tunnel, with a circumference of 27 kilometres (17 mi), at a depth ranging from 50 to 175 metres (164 to 574 ft) underground.

Large Hadron Collider

Already plans are underway to build even larger particle accelerators. In one design, the accelerator ring would be 100 kilometres around and run at seven times the energy of the Large Hadron Collider. The discovery/confirmation of the Higgs boson at the LHC has physicists eager to further the exploration of elementary particles.

Nima Arkani-Hamed, a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton is one of those leading the charge to build a super-sized accelerator.
Nima Arkani-Hamed large particle accelerator

Arkani-Hamed’s argument is that particle physics is entering a new phase. With the discovery of the Higgs, the Standard Model has effectively been completed. The theory predicted the outcomes of all known particle experiments. However difficult aspects of the model still prevail. For instance, even the short form of the equations used to describe it fill a page and are riddled with arbitrary parameters. The next generation of accelerators will have a different theoretical goal than prior ones: not to fill in the structure, but to understand it.

The onset of artificial intelligence has already crept in to today’s society in many different ways, and we can expect that heavy equipment of the future allow this type of technology to become ubiquitous. Combined with scale, the future of heavy equipment will be much different than today.

By  33rd SquareEmbed


Post a Comment