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Some types of crane are inherently level-luffing: those with a fixed horizontal jib, such as gantry, hammerhead or the fixed-jib tower cranes commonly used in construction. Usually though, the description is only applied to those with a luffing jib that have some additional mechanism applied to keep the hook level when luffing.
Level-luffing is most important when careful movement of a load near ground level is required, such as in construction or shipbuilding. This partially explains the popularity of fixed horizontal jibs in these fields.
An early form of level-luffing gear was the "Toplis" design, invented by a Stothert & Pitt engineer in 1914. This is also a purely mechanical linkage, arranged by the reeving of the hoist cables to the jib over pulleys at the crane's apex above the cab, so that luffing the jib upwards allows more free cable and lowers the hook to compensate.
The usual mechanism for level-luffing in modern cranes is to add an additional "horse head" section to the top of the jib. By careful design of the geometry, this keeps level merely by the linked action of the pivots.
As cranes and their control systems became more sophisticated, it became possible to control the level of luffing directly, by winching the hoist cable in and out as needed. The first of these systems used mechanical clutches between luffing and hoist drums, giving simplicity and a "near level" result.
Later systems have used modern electronic controls and quickly reversible motors with good slow-speed control to the hoist winch motors, so as to give a positioning accuracy of inches. Some early systems used controllable hydraulic gearboxes to achieve the same result, but these added complexity and cost and so were only popular where high accuracy was needed, such as for shipbuilding.
Luffing mechanisms have also been applied to the driver's cab being mounted on its own jib, following the movement of the crane's main jib  These are used for tasks such as ship unloading, where the view from the driver's cab is greatly improved by cantilevering it forwards and over the ship.
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