Pipelayers, also known as sidebooms, are heavy equipment used to lift, move into position, and place pipe on underground pipeline projects, such as natural gas and oil. They are also used in sewer and waterline installations. Lifting capacities of pipelayers range up to several hundred thousand pounds. The machines have a low center of gravity and feature some of the same safety features as cranes and other typical lifting machines, such as a load moment indicator (LMI).
Most pipelayers are purpose-built by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). The base machine is a crawler tractor, similar to that on which bulldozers are mounted. The boom that is used to lift the pipe is side-mounted, hence the sideboom moniker. The booms come in various configurations and lengths, giving pipeline project managers and equipment managers the ability to match the capabilities of the machine to the pipe specifications. To offset the weight being lifted by the boom, pipelayers of this configuration have counterweights on the other side of the tractor.
Pipelayers can also be built using an excavator as the base machine.
Sidebooms are supplied by numerous manufacturers and can be mounted onto the base machine either at the factory by the OEM (purpose-built) or after its purchase.
Operating stations—cabs—are protected by rollover protection systems (ROPS) and are often enclosed. Since visibility is crucial to proper placing of the pipe segments, seats are designed to enable operators ample view of both the boom and the pipe segment, as well as the trench into which it is being placed.