Art Lebedev Studio built a worldwide reputation amongst design fans and technology geeks with its Optimus keyboard, which incorporates a full colour, customisable, OLED display on each key. The studio’s work goes beyond high end gadgets for technological early adopters, though, and covers a wide range of different applications.

Industrial designer Timur Burbaev explains, “Art Lebedev Studio’s work is split into two groups: our own products, like the Optimus keyboard, and designs for customers. This crane cab was designed on a customer commission, from Optim Crane in Kaliningrad.”

The similarity between the names of the crane company and the keyboard are just a coincidence. Optim Crane was established in Russia’s Baltic port Kaliningrad in 1997. The company builds around 50 to 80 gantry cranes per year, with capacities up to 125t, and spans of 41m, for the Russian domestic market.

Roman Yudanov, CEO of Optim Crane, says, “We wanted a good looking, comfortable cabin, with no glass bending needed.” Burbaev explains, “The production level of Russian manufacturers is good, but its not fantastic. Our task on this design was to focus on simple, cheap technology. So, we used a metal frame, and kept plastic components to a minimum. We designed the crane to use components from Optim’s existing suppliers.

“One of the first things we wanted to do was to give a huge variety of points of view to the operator. With existing designs, there aren’t so many transparent elements in the cab. We came up with the idea of a metal framework, with some fixed windows, some sliding, and some hinged.

“We were influenced by design in mobile phones and modern architecture, which use a meshed framework of flat surfaces, to create complex shapes. As part of the design process, we built a number of scale and virtual models, with a camera at the same position as the operator, that allowed us to check every viewing angle.

“Another major problem for users of crane cabs in these environments is that the windows, particularly at the bottom of the cab, often get covered in a lot of dust. We developed schemes to make sure that they would be easy to clean.”

The designs speak for themselves; Optim Crane’s Yudanov says, “It offers a good panoramic view. And it looks brilliant.” The new cab will go into production in autumn 2009.