physic simulation for a loader crane


We are developing a simulator for what’s called “knuckle boom loader cranes”. This is what we are working with, and the movements it can make. (attention, professional PowerPoint skills incoming)

We have tested various methods of integrating and controlling our models in Unreal but are facing an issue simulating the physics. Now we are wondering what the best path to implement a machine such as this would be.

Specifically, we struggle with the “bending” motion of such a crane when you lift a load. Depending on the load it can go kind of banana shaped, because the steel structure bends down a bit like a spring would. Depending on how far the two sections that can extend/retract are out, how heavy the load is, and how the crane is moved (smooth or rough) it can bend and flex quite a bit. While simulating the swinging etc. of the load from the hook downwards isn’t difficult, we are facing huge issues with instability in the physics calculation if we try to simulate the whole crane, let alone including a truck.

Another issue then is collisions, as the shape is quite complex, and a simple capsule collision isn’t cutting it for this.

How do we best implement a crane like this? Should we use skeletal meshes and animate them, or use control rigs, or something completely different? Maybe use a blueprint to insert individual parts as static meshes? This would enable us to more easily cover different configurations (e.g. the black sections that extend and retract can each be customized, one crane may have 3 segments, another 8)

Currently we import our model as a skeletal mesh and animate it with animation blueprint and/or control rig.

What is the best practice for building a machine that use physic simulation? What is the best way to control it with blueprints?