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The largest forklift ever built was designed with a single purpose in mind: To move enormous pre-fabricated computer data centers.
The Combilift C25000 four-way forklift has a 25 ton capacity and has a 17-foot by 17-footprint. Its cab is more than 10 feet off the ground. It was built by HFT Forklifts Ltd., a division of Mitsubishi, at its plant in Monaghan, Ireland, according to specifications provided by BladeRoom, the maker of pre-fabricated data centers, kitchens and even mobile hospitals.
Nothing but a Forklift Would Do
BladeRoom executives determined that they needed the gigantic forklifts rather than gantry cranes, large counterbalance trucks or other heavy equipment to move their data centers because of their specialized requirements. Cranes were too inflexible and weren’t practical to install the L-shaped, 18 ton buildings. They also were prohibitively expensive. And the sheer physical size of a counterbalance truck that had a lifting capacity to move the data centers would have taken up too much space in the manufacturing area, according to BladeRoom CEO Paul Rogers.
“Material handling is a crucial part of the build process and with the help of Kevin Heath at HFT we realized that one possibility was a much larger version of the 12 ton and 14 ton capacity Combilifts that we were already using,” Rogers said in a Combilift news release.
Heavyweight Due to Heat Removal Requirements
The data centers manufactured by BladeRoom are big and bulky, but they also are extremely heavy due to the vast amounts of energy needed to cool banks of servers.
“Servers generate exceptionally large amounts of heat,” Rogers said. “This sector is second only to the aviation industry when it comes to energy consumption. Companies have gone to great lengths to cool premises by installing ever larger air conditioning units but these are not very efficient. It is like having an oven inside a fridge. And the Power Usage Efficiency Level (PUE) has remained very high.
“The international PUE rating calculates how much of the total energy consumption is used for (Internet technology) purposes and how much is wasted,” Rogers continued. “For example, a PUE of 4 represents 3 kilowatts of wasted energy for every 1 kilowatt consumed. our pre-engineered factory-built data centers incorporate computer fluid dynamics to extract the maximum amount of heat with the minimum use of mechanical cooling. This has enabled us to achieve a world-beating PUE of 1.1.”
In North America, there are seven of the BladeRoom data centers currently in use: San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York City, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Among computer companies, PUE is such a big deal that BladeRoom continually posts the current PUE at each of its data centers on its website.
Currently in Use in the UK
The world’s largest forklifts currently are being used at BladeRoom’s manufacturing facility in the UK to lift the fully fitted modules into place for pre-delivery testing.
“The ideal solution from our point of view was a machine that could move modules in the same way as other operations move pallets, just on a much larger scale, of course,” Rogers siad. “And thanks to the excellent customer service from all involved … this is exactly what we have in place.”
In spite of the forklift’s large size, they are exceptionally maneuverable. BladeRoom’s factory was redesigned to facilitate the enormous beasts. When the data center modules are completed, they are placed in rows and the forklift travels sideways along gangways between them. And thanks to the forklift’s 13-foot maximum lift capacity, they can be double-stacked.