Emissions standards in Europe, Japan and the US have shaped many aspects of the construction equipment industry over the last 15 years or more. This is applies to the compact equipment sector, where the cost of on-board engines emission technology is a significant part of the overall machine price.
But at the lower engine power ratings found in compact equipment, regulation has been lighter than for bigger units. In Europe the most stringent requirement for engines of
36 kW or less is Stage IIIA and 37 - 55 kW stop at Stage IIIB. It is similar in Japan, where both power bands do not have to exceed the requirements of Tier 4a – the EU Stage IIIB and US Tier 4 Interim equivalent. Things are more demanding in the US, where everything is now at a Tier 4 Final level.
But in Europe and Japan, which are both bigger mini excavator markets than the US, there is an obvious incentive to design machines that ‘duck’ under the 56 kW engine power mark. Although this has its advantages, it is of course an engineering challenge in itself to achieve this without a loss of performance due to a smaller engine.
This is fine for compact excavators – engines of this size are not normally found in machines below about 10 tonnes in weight. However, it is more of an issue with the larger sizes of compact tracked, wheeled and skid-steer loaders, and the introduction of Tier 4 Final in the US has driven a number of new machine introductions in the last 12 months. This particularly applies to skid steer and compact tracked loaders, for which the US is the major global market.
Notwithstanding the potential for increased prices because of the emissions requirements that have come in over the last year or two, key manufacturers have told iC the market for these machines is holding up.
Scott Krieger, Volvo’s marketing director for compact products, revealed its success had come despite what he described as a “very price-sensitive” and competitive sector.
He said, “We have had a pretty good year in 2014 with this sector, having seen infrastructure development going on around the world, including the developing areas of Europe, North America and growth in Asia, though business in China has slowed down.
“There has been growth in compact wheeled loaders and excavators, with customers seeking specialised equipment offering the best performance and operating costs.” He added that one of the drivers for growth was smaller contractors exploring equipment options for urban construction projects.
Mr Krieger added that he anticipated the market for 2015 would be relatively stable within the compact sector against last year. However, he felt the company’s diversity with equipment under both the Volvo and SDLG brands would be central to its continued strong fortunes.
His colleague, Volvo product manager Michal Saczuk, said there had been considerable emphasis on research and development across its equipment range.
This included planned improvements to one of the company’s core innovations, its Care Track telematics system, which is designed to deliver greater operating efficiencies to a number of machines.
He said, “We have been working on a lot of features for our equipment in terms of responding to environmental and engine legislation – for example with the L35 loader, we have looked at some of the controls having eco modes an auto shutdown that will help save on costs.”
Other manufacturers such as Bobcat, have alos been updating its product ranges, despite challenging economic conditions in areas of its global markets.
It has released a range of smaller machines including its new T450 tracked loader model. The machine powered by a 45 kW engine, which is +25% more powerful than that of the T140, the model it replaces. It offers a significant increase in both hydraulic and hydrostatic efficiency.
Caterpillar meanwhile has launched the 297F and 297D XHP multi terrain loaders with their dual suspension undercarriages, redesigned modular cabs and new vertical lift loader linkage with Cat Intelligent Levelling.
Being released in North America, Australia and New Zealand, the loaders include improved electronic controls and advanced displays to aid ease of operation. Among the main selling points is a rear-view camera.
The two new loaders have been designed for sites where high power, high traction and limited ground disturbance are core requirements, such as with residential development and snow removal.
Caterpillar said its latest compact machines offered enhanced performance over the outgoing C series, with the 297D offering a +4% increase in engine power and torque increase of +13% over its predecessor. This was in addition to a +19% improvement in lifting force.
The rated operating capacities (50% of tipping load) are 2 tonnes and 2.2 tonnes respectively for the machines.
Fitted with the new Cat C3.8 DIT turbo system, the machines have respective net ratings of 95 and 106 hp (71 and 79 kW) and meet US Tier 4 Interim and EU Stage IIIB emission standards.
For the US and European markets, the company is introducing three new D Series compact tracked loaders, along with three new Cat D series multi-terrain loaders.
There are also two updated D series compact tracked loaders as part of its 2015 range, with both its new and updated machines featuring redesigned cabs enhancing operator comfort and control. They also offer a new lift arm design for improved sight lines, as well as improved engine performance.
The eight D Series rubber-tracked loader range in rated operating capacity from 1.2 tonnes to 2.09 tonnes.
Mid-size frame models are the 257D multi terrain loader (MTL) and 259D compact track loader. Larger frame models are the 277D and 287D MTLs and the 279D and 289D CTLs.
These six models feature an electronically controlled 3.3-litre engine complying with Tier 4 Final emissions standards. The Cat C3.3B engine provides 74 hp (55 kW) with + 8% more torque and + 6% improved fuel economy compared to previous models.
Also for the European and US markets, Cat has released its D series skid steer loaders – which have also undergone revisions to the cab and performance capabilities.
Liebherr has also placed strong emphasis on ensuring its latest compact wheeled loaders – the L506 and 508 meet latest stage IIIB/ Tier 4 engine specifications. According to the company, these machines have been designed with high all-round visibility and manoeuvrability.
With an operating weight of 5.1 tonnes and 5.6 tonnes respectively, the L506 has a 46 kW engine, with its counterpart 508 model having a 50 kW engine. Their bucket capacities are
0.8 m3 and 1m3 for the higher specification machine.
JCB has extended and upgraded its compact articulated wheeled loader range, with a third model and the introduction of Tier 4 engines, offering increased torque and reduced emissions.
The company is adding a robust entry-level model aimed at the rental market, while the engine updates will also be seen on JCB’s TM180 and TM220 telescopic loader arm models.
All three machines are powered by a 2.5-litre engine developed in partnership with Kohler. Significantly, the have been designed to operate without the need for a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).
The 406 is now an entry-level model with a 50 hp (37 kW) mechanical engine for the rental sector, while the 407 takes on the role previously played by the 406, with a 64 hp (48 kW) water-cooled electronically-controlled engine. The 409 is a 74 hp
(55 kW) version.
Though providing similar power outputs as the previous machines, the 407 is +4% up on the old 406, the 407 benefits from an +58% higher peak torque output, while the 409 gains a
+20% torque boost at a lower engine speed of 1,500 rpm.
A new range of compact wheeled loaders from Case has been developed complying with Tier 4 Final emissions requirements.
Comprising six new machines, the company’s latest F-series of models spans the 4.4 tonne 21F through to the largest loader, the 6.2 tonne 321F. They have been designed to offer increased lift capacity of up to 400 kg each compared with previous models.
As completely new machines, the series has had a major redesign of cabins. The 21F and 121F are under 2.5 m high, aiding transportation under bridges if loaded on a truck.
Its FPT Industrial engines span from 58 to 74 hp (43 to 55 kW). They have been designed to operate without the need for a particulate filter to meet latest emissions standards.
Key features include enhanced hydraulic systems, with high flow options available on the 221F and 321F. This enables the use of power attachments including snow blowers and asphalt planers.
Kubota in particular is targeting the two to three tonne weight category with its latest machine, the U27-4, which the company says has delivered significant improvements over its previous models.
The company claimed the equipment delivered among the largest and well-equipped cabin in its class and have improved safety and visibility for machine operators.
Kubota says it developed its latest excavator to operate in a range of conditions with a well-balanced force allowing it to dig swiftly to a deeper level (2.8 m) efficiently.
The U27-4’s engine has been built to exceed present European emissions standards for the segment and is said to have improved fuel economy.
It has been developed for use in congested areas thanks to its compact tail, which has minimal protrusion outside the track width. This, says the company, enables it to turn through a 360° radius safely and efficiently.
Neil Winfield, Kubota construction’s business development manager, said, “The U27-4 was introduced following extensive research and development with operators across both the UK and worldwide. This, combined with Kubota’s manufacturing expertise, has resulted in an excavator being designed to meet and exceed the needs of the market.
“The feedback we received in the 2.5 tonne class highlighted that users wanted more space in the cabin and increased comfort levels, while not compromising on performance levels.”
According to Hyundai, reliability, flexibility and productivity are the main assets of its new R17Z-9A zero tail swing mini excavator.
The new machine has been fitted with a Kubota D902 engine rated at 11.7 kW and weighing 1.7 tonnes, slotting into its existing smaller line-up between the R16-9 and the R27Z-9.
When fitted with a 960 mm long dipper arm, the R17Z-9A provides a maximum dig depth of 2.2 m.
The company said its latest mini model achieves true zero swing capability and it has two speed travel - 2.2 km/h and 4.1 km/h.
Kobelco has introduced its first ever mini-excavator equipped with the Japanese manufacturer’s iNDr (integrated Noise & Dust reduction) technology.
First seen on larger Kobelco excavators, this system is designed to filter out dust and improve engine cooling, which in turn cuts engine noise. The company said the SK55SRX is well suited for a wide range of urban construction projects.
This five tonne class model features a number of technical innovations designed to improve work efficiency and reduce operating costs.
It has been equipped with a new dozer blade design to minimise over-spill during levelling operations, reducing the work time and fuel usually associated with levelling passes. It has a compact short-tail with a maximum overhang of just 190 mm.
Hitachi has targeted high-performance for its latest mini excavators, the ZX17U-5 and ZX19U-5.
Designed to be user-friendly, offering high levels of performance, comfort and durability, the company said its Zaxis-5 models have been developed for narrow or confined spaces. Lightweight and compact, these compact machines are said to be suitable for utilities, foundation work, landscaping and indoor demolition or construction projects.
Their versatility has been highlighted with its expandable crawler tracks. These can be retracted or widened – depending on the requirements of the job site – from 980 mm, for working in small spaces or being loaded on to a truck, to 1,280 mm for greater stability.
The front of each machine is fitted with a boom cylinder guard with a new V-shaped boom cylinder cover featuring two bolts for added durability.
In addition, the rubber crawlers have been upgraded and the undercover of the revolving platform frame has been lengthened. The design of both models has changed to a revised D-frame to enhance its performance.
Following the development of the SV26, Yanmar has launched a new range of 1.5 to 2.5 tonne mini-excavators with ultra-short rear swing radius. The new range includes the SV16, SV18 and SV22, is said by the company to be more powerful and easier to use than the company’s previous models.
Some of their key features include compact dimensions and very short rear overhang – in order to work effectively in tight spaces.
All the machine’s operating movements are now joystick controlled. Its instrument panel holds all control buttons, including the blade control and the second-gear speed control.
The machines are fitted as standard with an LED light on the lower part of the boom. Three additional lamps and a flashing revolving light on the cab are optional.
US-based manufacturer Gehl has also released its latest mini-excavator, the Z25, which delivers enhanced performance and efficiency over the outgoing model, the Z27. Its mini excavators are manufactured for the company by Yanmar, in the type of OEM supply agreement that is becoming increasingly common in the compact equipment sector.
Gehl said the machine had greater efficiency through greater capability with 8 inches (203 mm) deeper dig depth and 8.3 inches (211 mm) and additional reach at ground level compared to the previous model.
Launched initially within the US market, it is equipped with a 20.4 hp (15.2 kW) electronically-controlled Yanmar Tier 4 emissions-certified diesel engine.
Creating an improved environment for machine operators has been of central importance, particularly with its joystick controls that reduce operator fatigue through ease-of-use. The cab is fitted with a 4-way adjustable seat offering custom settings and optional heaters are available.
The machines digital controls feature recordable maintenance history with adjustable time intervals and reminders, fluid levels, fluid temperature, as well as logging machine activity hours.
Featuring a Kubota V2607DI-T 2.6 litre four-cylinder engine, Messersi has released its latest wheeled excavator.
With a fully-loaded operating weight of around 6.5 tonnes, it has a power rating of 50 kW.
Its engine is coupled to a hydrostatic four-wheel drive box and double axial piston pump with variable flow by 75 + 75 l/min. It also has electronic selection of its three steering modes, with a warning light on the dashboard enabling verification of the correct alignment of the wheels of the rear axle.
It has been designed to work and drive easily in narrow places with obstacle or corners.
The M-70W has a double effect power take off with max delivery 75 l/min at a pressure of 240 bar and additional hydraulic pipes in order to use it as a multifunctional machine (roto-tilt, grab bucket).
In addition to its larger model, the company has also introduced the 2.5 tonne M-25U zero swing mini-excavator. The company said its fully servo-controlled systems during driving and have resulted in better control and high performance.
Ditch Witch has released its latest SK850 skid steer loader, which it says has been developed to compete as among the most productive and durable machines in its class.
Equipped with a 37 hp (27.6-kW), Tier 4 Yanmar diesel engine, it is the most powerful of the company’s mini skid steers.
There are dozens of attachments for a wide range of utility, landscaping, plumbing, and other underground construction tasks.
In terms of its design, the skid steer’s (188-cm2) platform is among the largest in its class, offering increased comfort and stability.
The ergonomic operator’s station has been updated with new features for optimised comfort and efficiency.
Dual-lever ground drive controls come standard, with an optional single-lever joystick available. An auxiliary control foot pedal helps operators maintain hydraulic flow to the attachment while freeing their hands to control depth and ground speed.
Wacker Neuson is anticipating plenty of attention surrounding one of its most advanced releases this year in the form of its WL20e wheeled loader.
It is believed to be the first of its type with an electric drive system for emission-free work.
The WL20e’s development follows the company winning an Intermat Innovation Award for its 803 dual power excavator.
Its latest loader has two electric motors, one for the drive system and one for the hydraulics. The off-road capability is said to be similar to the diesel-driven model WL20.
According to the company, emissions can be reduced by up to -43% over conventionally powered excavators; which in turn has a positive effect in terms of noise reduction.
The energy costs are said to be significantly below those of a diesel-operated model, with savings of up to + 50% are possible.
There are also additional cost advantages in the maintenance and service intervals, since fewer elements and components are used that are exposed or could fail.
Once the battery is fully charged, a work application of up to five hours can take place with the wheel loader WL20e – enough time for typical applications, such as loading and transporting goods over short distances. A lead-acid battery is used that is time-tested and proven in the industrial sector.