Cat's new compact tracked loaders, plus D-Series excavator

By Murray Pollok16 February 2009

Caterpillar's 279C tracked loader.

Caterpillar's 279C tracked loader.

New tracked loaders to complement its existing multi-terrain loaders, and the new D-Series 8 t excavators: Murray Pollok reports from Caterpillar's Desford facility in the UK.

If you have ever seen Caterpillar's range of multi-terrain tracked loaders you will experience a sense of recognition when you look at the company's three new compact tracked loaders. The just-launched 279C, 289C and 299C machines - built at the same facility in Sanford, North Carolina where Cat makes the multi-terrain loaders and its skid steers - share the upperstructure of the multi-terrain models. But they have one significant difference, a completely new undercarriage.

Where the multi-terrain models use a rubber tracked undercarriage built for Caterpillar by Terex-owned ASV (but patented by Cat), the three new machines have Cat-built, durable tracks that make them ideally suited for rougher terrain applications such as construction, quarrying and mining. The multi-terrain models are designed for specialist applications such as landscaping and where low ground pressures are important and have better ride characteristics and higher travel speeds.

The new undercarriage differs in several ways from the multi-terrain versions. Instead of rubber tracks, the compact loaders use rubber embedded with steel cables. In addition, there are five steel rollers instead of the four on the open-designed multi-terrain tracks (see photos), and the new models have dual idlers at the front and a single idler at the rear; "It's the best of both worlds", says Marie-Eve Penel, marketing consultant, general construction for Cat EAME (Europe, Africa and Middle East), "ride quality at the front and durability at the back."

A pair of torsion axles on each side of the machine allows the tracks to flex independently, and the loaders have an external-type sprocket that can easily be removed and fitted on either track. Ms Penel says the sprockets and tracks can be removed in just one hour on site; "That is unique, and very useful for customers."

Also useful from an maintenance point of view is the placing of the oil and water coolant tanks side by side, and the use of an on-demand fan that means "you can run the machine all day long - even with the most demanding work tools", says Ms Penel.

All three models - which were introduced to dealers earlier this year at Caterpillar's impressive new visitor centre at its Desford, UK factory - use the Cat C3.4T diesel turbocharged engine and top travel speeds of 13.6 km/hr (compared to the 14.9 km/hr on the multi-terrain machines). Operating weights are from 4487 kg up to 4867 kg, and bucket pin heights at maximum lift are 3.13 m, 3.24 m and 3.29 m. The 279C has a radial linkage design, while the 289C and 299C both have vertical linkages.

Ms Penel says rental companies will favour the new, heavier duty CTL models over the multi terrain versions, despite a 5% price premium; "The compact loader is the best fit for rental - because you never know where the machine will be used. They are more expensive to buy, but in most applications they are less expensive to maintain, and have lower operating costs."

Rental companies still favour skid steers - which represent around three quarters of the compact loader market - but compact tracked machines are starting to gain ground, with Terex Construction among those now pushing its own models. Caterpillar will be hoping that its own newly expanded range will accelerate the trend.

Bridging the gap

The new D-Series 8 t category excavators have been designed by Caterpillar to span the divide between mini-excavators and larger ‘production' machines, with the three models improving on the performance on the C-Series machines and offering for the first time an 8 t compact model with a swivel boom.

The series has three models, the 307D (fixed boom), 308D CR (compact radius, fixed boom) and the 308D CR SB (compact radius, swivel boom), with respective operating weights of 7075 kg, 7850 kg and 8400 kg. The compact radius models have maximum overhangs of 150 mm (650 mm on the 307D).

Caterpillar mini-excavator product specialist Joris Hoogenboom says the new machines provide a powerful front end combined with a compact footprint to offer versatile and flexible operation. Stick force is 15% higher than its predecessor at between 36.2 and 39 kN, and there has been a 35% hike in bucket force to 49.2 - 60 kN. Mr Hoogenboom says the machines will also be more efficient, with a new load sensing hydraulics improving cycle times by 10%.

The rounded cabs on the three models are taken from much larger Cat excavators and have window options designed to make them easier to use on site, such as a sliding window on the roof and the lower front window can be removed and stored at the back of the cab during trenching jobs. All three have Mitsubishi 41 kW turbocharged engines.

As well as the new swivel boom option, Cat has extended the undercarriage choices. In addition to 450 mm wide steel, 600 mm steel and 450 mm steel/rubber tracks, there is now a 450 mm wide rubber track option.

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