This month's featured product is Crain's Tri-Max.

Jerry McGray
Here are a couple of questions for you: Should the advent of robotic total stations, with their additional weight and torsional stresses, lead to the development of tripods with increased characteristics of stability? Is it time to re-think tripod design from the ground up, using modern principles of physics and engineering?

Crain Enterprises of Mound City, Ill., have answered both these questions with an emphatic “yes,” and have acted accordingly. The new Tri-Max tripod model was designed with a number of innovative components (many are awaiting patent approval). While some of these improvements come under the category of “nice to have,” the big thrust was aimed at stability, which should be considered “need to have.” What characteristic could be more important, not just for robotic ones, but for all substantial instruments?

Even the most minute movement in the structure of a tripod is of course magnified many times in terms of precision loss. This new tripod features a special absolute mating hinge spindle that prevents lateral movement while allowing normal leg movement for setup. Instead of screws or bolted clamps, the leg members are attached to the central tripod head with a high-tech rigid adhesive that is claimed to never loosen regardless of age and environmental exposures. That claim looks pretty valid from this vantage point, since the Tri-Max comes with a five-year warranty. A cursory look at the market revealed a typical maximum warranty of one year or less.

Another innovation the Tri-Max features is the composition of its legs. A fiberglass-based composite is used even in the leg dowels, a component almost universally made of wood until now. The durability of that material is again evidenced by the five-year warranty. Also unique is that the legs are available in either cam lever or thumbscrew locks. With either lock, a new continuous wedge design between outer dowels and inner slats gives new meaning to the word “lock,” delivering much more locking force than conventional clamps.

As important as the above basic structural properties are, a tripod can truly become a crew favorite with its “nice to have” characteristics. Crain has given some real thought to these features. They include:

  • Carry handle—An actual handle is affixed to a leg.

  • Retaining straps—A really simple solution to the problem of a leg sliding outward.

  • Open leg design—Thanks to the unique leg locks, there is no band around the leg. This frees up the sliding slat to allow affixing the handle mentioned above, plus other accessories.

  • Carry strap—This includes shoulder pad.

  • Extra large foot plates with scientifically designed foot points. Points are replaceable.


Have a Tall One

The Tri-Max is available in a tall model. In addition to the usual applications for tall tripods, Crain suggests this use for their tall one: spread the legs extremely wide, putting the tripod head (and the instrument, of course) at normal user height. Why? Once again, for stability, especially in conditions of shaky terrain such as mud, snow, ice crust and sand. With the legs spread, the feet are planted safely away from the movement of the operator. In effect, the tripod’s contact points with the ground are isolated from the instrument activity. Specially designed accessories are available, which augment this capability.

The Tri-Max’s price is comparable to other brands, especially when the five-year warranty is factored in. Here’s one last question: Why didn’t somebody do this before?