Boom ends - the latest in demolition attachments
By Lindsay Gale01 June 2011
The last two years have been challenging for attachment suppliers, with demand reported to be as low as 50% of that experienced during 'the good times' experienced up to 2007. Since 2008, contractors have not been buying and making the most of what they already had. However, there are signs that market conditions for suppliers in this sector are beginning to improve at last, even if recovery seems patchy in geographical terms
Stanley Hydraulic Tools is one company that is more optimistic than in past months. At the National Demolition Association convention in Las Vegas, Lou Maggio told D&Ri: "Europe is rebounding, with stronger growth to be seen in the UK and Germany, although in Spain conditions are still challenging. In the US, it is the scrap sector that is fuelling demand, with the demolition sector still slow. Scrap prices are strong following their sharp dip last year, driven by a lack of supply."
He went on to say that: "providing oil prices do not get of hand, we are positive about the potential for sales in 2011."
This is echoed by Atlas Copco Construction Tools marketing director Peter Lauwers, who told D&Ri: "Market conditions in general are improving steadily. However, the market level is still quite below where it once was. And regionally, we see big differences in the recovery, with southern Europe, for example, still depressed. Nevertheless, we still predict steady growth in other areas."
This optimism was shared by Digbits' Marcus Clay: "We believe market conditions have improved since 2009, although the latter part of 2010 was marred by the early and severe onset of winter in the UK. Export markets are certainly remaining busy - probably aided by the exchange rate - and we see a continued, if steady improvement continuing through 2011."
Others are less optimistic, however. Italian manufacturer Promove's Antonio Canaò, for example, said that despite seeing "a good start to 2011, with an increase in demand for demolition equipment, after the Samoter show we saw a slowdown in the European market. Personally, I do not believe that European demand will increase significantly in the near future. I see all the problems which caused the 2008-2009 collapse still there: a number of unsold and unoccupied buildings, huge sovereign debt for many European countries which refrain from financing new infrastructure as well as a very slow economic recovery."
One reported trend is that there, in fact, appears to be a move away from the use of multi processors towards dedicated tools for specific applications arising from the use of hydraulic tool connection/coupling systems that allow quick tool changes from the cab of carriers. As an example, Stanley's European sales manager Heinz Groppe told D&Ri: "we are increasingly seeing contractors using three dedicated tools [crusher, pulveriser and shear] instead of multi processors. Hydraulic quick couplers allow quick and easy tool changes - why use a tool that can only supply 70% performance across three applications when they can use a dedicated tool for each that can deliver 100% performance?"
The recent challenging economic conditions have had one positive benefit, according to several manufacturers. With demand reported as being down as much as 50% on 2006-2007 levels, they have been able to free up resources to allow an intensification of their R&D activities, the results of which to be seen in these pages.
Without question, it is the scrap side of the business, especially in the USA, that is fuelling the gradual upturn as scrap metal prices recover, encouraging many of the attachment providers to develop or extend their ranges of scrap shears, as shown by the number of such attachments featured in this article.
Italian manufacturer Mantovanibenne, quite apart from forming a Chinese joint venture as reported in the Jan-Feb issue of this magazine, has refreshed its range of scrap shears with the introduction of the Eagle II series of attachments that supersedes the earlier Eagle range. But the company has also been looking at smaller tools. MBI used the recent Samoter show to introduce two new such attachments at the smaller end of its ranges in the shape of the CRH440 crusher and the MCP300 pulveriser. Weighing in at 290 kg (638 lb) and 150 kg (330 lb) respectively, the former can be mounted on machines weighing form 2 to 4 tonnes and the latter on 1.5 to 4 tonne machines. They form part of the new Micro Machine product line.
Stanley has introduced a number of new products in recent months - the MP20R discussed in more detail in this article, a three model line of four tined orange peel grapples (the 2,100 kg OPG 4T 1.25, 2,275 kg OPG 4T 1.5 and 2,450 kg OPG 4T 2.0) and the Stanley-branded Finmac F16 demolition robot. Where demolition tools are concerned, Lou said that the MP20R will be followed by a larger model in the next four to six months. A smaller MP10R multiprocessor has also been developed as part of Stanley's response to demands for smaller but more powerful tools. In addition, the company's UP line of universal processors will be revised and redesigned, with availability due during 2012.
Despite a less than optimistic take on market conditions, Promove also has introduced attachments, specifically at Samoter. These consisted of two multi processors, the CP 300 for 3 to 9 tonne carriers and the CP2510 for 23 to 38 tonne machines. The third, the 3,400 kg (7,480 lb) CF350 XL for 30-50 tonne machines, was developed specifically to meet a demand from one of Promove's dealers for a tool specifically for secondary demolition and recycling applications. It presents a larger breaking section than traditional jaws and delivers extraordinary crushing capacity, said Antonio. He went on: "The business lines are well defined. The plan is to introduce two new hydraulic breakers, a 2,000 kg (4,400 lb) unit and a totally renewed 100 kg (220 lb) model. In addition, the CP crusher line will see some changes, with the CP1800 being replaced by a CP2000. These should appear at the next Intermat show in Paris in 2012.
Atlas Copco will also see some fruits from its R&D effort. In addition to the CC4400 CombiCutter discussed in this article, Peter said: "During the course of this year we will add new products to our CombiCutter range. And our range of bulk pulverisers will actually get a facelift and will come with a new wear system. There will also be a new range of compactor attachments."
According to Peter, cost is a major driver for his customers: "We still see a need to reduce the total cost of ownership. It is important to build an awareness of the cost drivers after purchasing an attachment. The initial investment is not the biggest cost driver when you consider the total cost during a product's entire lifetime."
He went on: "Atlas Copco clearly sees a need to reduce cost by reducing weight and increasing performance. A smaller attachment which delivers the same performance requires a smaller carrier, less fuel consumption. And also maintenance is a key topic. Less and easy maintenance bring more uptime of the machine."
Cost is the driver also in Antonio's mind. He said: "In this negative outlook, pricing looks to be the key factor in purchasing decisions. We see even premium brands introducing "cheap" brands or second lines and when this is not a decision of the manufacturers, dealers tend to choose a second line in order not to loose any potential deals".
Cat, meanwhile, has updated its four model multi-processor line (MP15, MP20, MP30 and MP40) with a new shear jaw design and with modifications to the housing to make the tools easier to service and maintain.
The new jaw has been designed to provide faster and more efficient metal cutting - the jaw now features a piercing tip and a wear blade in the upper jaw and a cross blade with addition guiding blade in the lower. The straight lower jaw works with the apex of the upper, compressing and flattening steel before the cut is made. The straight lower jaw also minimises shear force and creates a more efficient cut.
Where the housing is concerned, a new cover design allows easier access to the inner parts of the tool, and the pins, trunnions and bearings have been adjusted to speed jaw changeouts. The hydraulic cylinder is now protected by a cover, and the tool features a number of parts that are common to all Cat work tools.
One thing is certain - despite substantial investments in R&D still being made, the basic attachment technologies are set to remain the same. Peter's response was typical: "Even if we at Atlas Copco have a lot of interesting projects ongoing, we don't expect any radical changes."