NPO VNIIstroidormash: Soviet Construction Equipment Technology

On my companion site vulcanhammer.info, I have posted several articles on Soviet (and after that Russian) pile driving equipment, such as diesel hammers, concrete pile cutters, and vibratory and impact-vibration hammers.  These are very specialised topics, even by construction industry standards; here I want to present some photos of more general interest to you heavy equipment fans.  The Soviet Union was known for its commitment to heavy manufacturing and construction equipment like this is certainly a big part of that.

NPO VNIIstroidormash is the Soviet name for the Moscow-based institute which designed and tested the equipment shown below.  The name means the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Construction and Road-Building Machinery.  It was put together in 1975, and survived past the end of the Soviet Union in 1991 as a share society, i.e., a privatised corporation.  In addition to the pile driving equipment which got me involved with the organisation, it designed many other types of equipment, and the best way to show this follows, from their catalogue produced around 1986.

DZ-110A-1 Bulldozer with laser-beam steering and control system. Surface-working accuracy +-5 cm at 10-400 mm distance from the laser source. Such a set-up is common today; at the time it was not.
DZ-110A-1 Bulldozer with laser-beam steering and control system. Surface-working accuracy +-5 cm at 10-400 mm distance from the laser source. Such a set-up is common today; at the time it was not.
Similar, laser-levelled concept with a DZ-122A-13 motor grader.
Similar, laser-levelled concept with a DZ-122A-13 motor grader.
EO-4125 excavator. The excavator is probably the single most versatile and important earth moving machine on a construction site. This one sported servo-controlled valves, which makes current excavators much easier to operate than their older counterparts.
EO-4125 excavator. The excavator is probably the single most versatile and important earth moving machine on a construction site. This one sported servo-controlled valves, which makes current excavators easier to use than their older counterparts.
Excavators are versatile in that things other than the usual bucket can be mounted on the boom. In this case, the MTP-71A excavator has an extended backhoe that is used for large swing radii and canal digging. It's mounted on rubber tyres (the one above is on tracks) for softer soils; it's also easier to transport on roads.
Excavators are versatile in that things other than the usual bucket can be mounted on the boom. In this case, the MTP-71A excavator has an extended backhoe used for large swing radii and canal digging. It’s mounted on rubber tyres (the one above is on tracks) for softer soils; it’s also easier to transport on roads.  To increase the effective counterweight it sports outriggers.
EO-3323 excavator, also mounted on tyres with outriggers. The red bucket on the end has a capacity of 0.75 cu.m.
EO-3323 excavator, also mounted on tyres with outriggers. The red bucket on the end has a capacity of 0.75 cu.m.
Turning to cranes, this is a 12.5 (metric) ton hydraulic truck crane. Very useful for light lifting, they're fairly common on construction sites and other places.
Turning to cranes, this is a 12.5 (metric) ton hydraulic truck crane. Very useful for light lifting, they’re fairly common on construction sites and other places.
40-ton truck crane, another versatile tool.
40-ton truck crane, another versatile tool.

Our business used these often for the assembly of our larger hammers, but sometimes things didn’t go according to plan.

For really heavy lifts, Vulcan could have used this for its biggest products. Cranes such as this were used in the early 1980's for the modification of its biggest hammer.
250-ton crane.  For really heavy lifts, Vulcan could have used this for its biggest products. Cranes such as this were used in the early 1980’s for the modification of its biggest hammer.
Vibration roller for compaction. These machines are not really intended for deep compaction of soils but surface smoothing, which is necessary when building roads and airfields.
DM-476 vibration roller for compaction. These machines are not really intended for deep compaction of soils but surface smoothing, which is necessary when building roads and airfields.
DZ-140 motor grader, used for final levelling of roadways before smoothing and paving. The blade is 4.8 m long.
DZ-140 motor grader, used for final levelling of roadways before smoothing and paving. The blade is 4.8 m long.
A skid steer loader, better known on American jobsites as a
TO-31 skid steer loader, better known on American jobsites as a “Bobcat” after the popular American brand. Maybe they should have named this a “Siberian Tiger.”
A bulldozer-ripper. Most people connect bulldozers with moving soil, but this one is designed to break up rock for removal.
A bulldozer-ripper. Most people connect bulldozers with moving soil, but this one is designed to break up rock for removal.
Computer aided design, 1980's style: VNIIstroidormash's computer room.
Computer aided design, 1980’s style: VNIIstroidormash’s computer room.
VNIIstroidormash's library.
VNIIstroidormash’s library.
VNIIstroidormash's female ski team.
VNIIstroidormash’s female ski team.

Our family business first connected with the Institute in 1988, and our contacts continued for the next six years.  Sometimes things got strange but we discovered an organisation that put out some very good designs for construction equipment.  Unfortunately the Soviet manufacturing organisation was not up to proper quality control, especially in the civilian sector, and that weakness was one of those which ultimately brought the Soviet Union down.

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