Compact equipment: Thinking big

By Helen Wright12 April 2011

The largest machine in Caterpillar’s new D Series mini excavator range, the 5.5 tonne 305.5D CR.

The largest machine in Caterpillar’s new D Series mini excavator range, the 5.5 tonne 305.5D CR.

This year, 110000 mini excavators are forecast to be sold in major international markets, up 14500 compared to 2010, with nearly 37% of the machines (41000) expected to be sold in China alone.

Sales of skid-steer loaders in China, Western Europe, North America, Japan and India are also expected to climb, with over 36000 machines forecast to be sold in 2011, the bulk (29500) of which are expected to be sold in the North American market.

The flurry of new machines that have been launched in the last six months is testament to the popularity of compact construction equipment. Over 70 new models of compact loaders and excavators are featured in this report alone, all unveiled in the last six months to provide for a greater range of size options as well as higher productivity, efficiency, and overall performance.

Caterpillar, for instance, has launched a new D Series of mini hydraulic excavators that are more versatile and powerful than their C Series predecessors. The new 303.5D CR, 304D CR, 305D CR and 305.5D CR are named after their operating weights, which range from 3.5 tonnes to 5.5 tonnes.

Models 303.5D CR and 304D CR are zero-tail-swing machines that keep the radius of the upper body within the width of the tracks, while models 305D CR and 305.5D CR are compact-radius machines that limit upper-body tail swing over the tracks to 5.5 inches (140 mm) or less.

The largest machine in the new range, the 305.5D CR, can dig to 3.9 m when fitted with a long arm, and 3.5 m with a standard arm, while the independent-swing boom on all models allows digging next to walls and obstructions.

And Caterpillar has also expanded its sub-3 tonne mini excavator range with 3 new models, including the smallest excavator that the company has ever produced, the 0.9 tonne 300.9D. The new range is built to Caterpillar specifications by Wacker Neuson at its plant in Linz, Austria, and the smallest of the new models takes Caterpillar's mini excavator offering into the micro market.

Powered by a 13.7 kW engine and featuring an overall width of just 730 mm (28.7 in), the machine is capable of driving through a standard doorway, providing easy access to confined sites. It can be coupled with a range of powered attachments, with a compact breaker under development.

In addition to the 300.9D, Caterpillar has also unveiled new 1.5 tonne and 2.7 tonne excavators for its compact range to meet demand for more size options in the growing mini excavator market.

"We know that many customers are looking for more options in this size range, and the alliance with Wacker Neuson will give those customers expanded choices to help them grow their business," Mary Bell, Caterpillar's vice president of building and construction product said, adding that more new models are expected to join the line-up later this year.

Zero emissions

Meanwhile, manufacturers of mini excavators in Japan have also been busy, with Komatsu, Kubota, Hitachi and Yanmar bringing new models to the market.

Komatsu launched its new PC22MR-3 mini excavator in February, replacing the PC20MR-2 and completing the company's MR-3 range. With an operating weight of 2.3 tonnes, the machine features a short tail design for work in restricted areas, while Komatsu's Satellite Monitoring System comes as standard.

Kubota also introduced two mini excavators in the 1 to 2 tonne class - the KK016-4 and KX019-4, which replace the 'dash-3' models KX36-3 and KX41-3S. Both models have variable track widths and autoshift travel as standard.

Hitachi, meanwhile, showcased an innovative new electric mini excavator at the Samoter show in March. Designed for earthmoving applications in sensitive locations such as indoors, in dense urban areas or at night, the only noise the 2.7 tonne Volterra ZE22U produces is from its hydraulics and there are no emissions.

Its 12 kW engine takes three to four hours to charge, and it can operate up to six hours before requiring a recharge. Fitted with a 500 mm bucket, the machine can dig to 1.6 m.

Yanmar, too, had a new model on display at Samoter - the 3.4 tonne ViO33. The latest mini excavator to join its ViO range can dig to 3 m and has a 765 mm rear swing radius. Power comes from a 18.1 kW Yanmar engine.

Also new for the mini excavator market is Bobcat's 2.6 tonne E26, minimal tail swing compact machine. The new addition to the company's M-Series line of mini excavators was unveiled at the ConExpo show in March and will reach the market in July this year, replacing Bobcat's long-standing 324 and 425 models.

The E26 is powered by a 27 hp (20 kW) Interim Tier 4 compliant engine and has just 0.8 in (20 mm) of tail overhang - allowing the machine to fit into tighter surroundings than its predecessor models.

The machine's hydraulic system delivers 4991 ft/lbs (6.8 kN) of bucket breakout force, and can dig to 8ft 6 in (2.6 m) with a standard arm and 9 ft 6 in (2.9 m) using the long-arm option.

Bobcat also showcased three new compact loaders at this year's ConExpo and Samoter exhibitions. The new additions to the 700 Series - the T770 tracked loader, the S770 skid-steer and the A770 all-wheel-steer (AWS) loader - are said to offer higher rated operating capacities and increased engine and hydraulic power, allowing users to take on more demanding applications.

The S770 skid-steer has a rated operating capacity of 1.6 tonnes, while the A770 AWS and the T770 models feature rated operating capacities of 1.5 tonnes and 1.6 tonnes respectively.

The new models replace Bobcat's S300/S330, T300/T320 and A300 machines. Powered by a 68.6 kW Kubota V3800-DI-T-E3 diesel engine, all three new loaders are said to offer faster cycle times, higher productivity, and improved attachment performance.

Hidromek, too, has crammed more into less with the launch of the smallest member of its backhoe loader family, the 62SS. Weighing 3.6 tonnes and sporting a 59 hp (44 kW) Kubota engine, the machine can be coupled with hydraulic breakers, dozer blades, augers, agricultural grab tools, forks and a variety of different size of buckets.

The compact size of the 62SS and its ability to turn on its own axis make it well-suited for working in urban constructions and agricultural applications where the space is often limited.


Increased manoeuvrability is a central feature of much of the new compact equipment on the market, and customers have also called for faster travel speed across sites.

Indeed, John Deere has introduced of a two-speed option to its mid-frame 318D and 320D skid steer loaders in response to customer demand.

The new option, which will be available by the end of the year, increases ground speed by as much as +62% from 6.8 mph (11 km/h) to 11 mph (17.7 km/h). It is engineered to provide a second gear for a variety of work, including landscaping, highway, bridge, and urban job sites.

"Faster travel means more productivity," said Gregg Zupancic, product marketing manager for skid steers and compact track loaders at John Deere. "With more speed, customers will see faster cycle times working with trucks on the jobsite or carrying materials."

Liugong also launched a new, faster, compact skid steer loader, the 365A, at the ConExpo exhibition. With a 67.3 hp (50.2 kW) Yanmar engine, the new machine can travel at speeds of up to 7.6 mph (12.2 km/h).

The 365A has a rated load of 1750 lbs (796 kg) and Liugong says the 365A's cycle time is a scant 8.7 seconds. The loader is designed for multi-tasking, offering 3000 psi (207 bar) of hydraulic pressure to power a variety of attachments.

More new entrants to the market came from Case, which in February launched a new family of skid steers and compact track loaders. Case's new Alpha Series exemplifies a growing trend among manufacturers to offer both radial lift and vertical lift models to enable buyers to select the best option for the task.

Radial lift arms offer higher breakout forces, swing out in an arc before reaching their peak height and are most suited to excavation work, grading and digging.

Vertical lift machines, meanwhile, are ideal for material handling and back loading since the loader arm raises straight, giving good outreach at the top of the lift path.
Case has launched 6 new radial lift wheeled skid steers - the SR130, SR150, SR175, SR200, SR220 and SR250 - and two compact tracked loaders - the TR270 and TR320.There are also four vertical-lift models - the SV185, SV250 and SV300 skid steers and the TV380 compact tracked loader.

Rated operating capacities range from 590 kg in the new class-size SR130, to 1.4 tonnes in the SV300, while the new tracked loaders feature rated operating capacities ranging from 1.2 tonnes to 1.7 tonnes.

"Our new Alpha Series skid steers deliver industry-leading bucket breakout force - up to 8585 lbs (3.9 tonnes). The SR175 has more than twice the bucket breakout force than the current best-selling model in this size class," Case marketing manager Curtis Goettel said.

And Case's new range coincided with the launch of new compact models from its sister company, New Holland. The new 200 Series from New Holland includes seven skid steer loaders, five of which are vertical lift loaders while two are radial lift models.

The L213 and L215 compact radial lift machines feature rated operating capacities of 1300 lbs (590 kg) and 1500 lbs (680 kg) each, offering bucket breakout forces of 4,150 lbs (18.5 kN).

The new vertical lift skid steers - New Holland's L218, L220, L223, L225 and L230 machines - feature the company's Super Boom design, which allows them to load material to the centre of trucks, while a 53° dump angle lets operators empty the bucket faster, increasing cycle times and productivity.

In addition to these machines, New Holland has also introduced three compact track loaders to its 200 Series. Designed on the back of input from customers across North America, there are two vertical lift models - the C232 and C238 - and one radial lift machine, the C227. The loaders feature rated operation capacities of up to 1.4 tonnes and a maximum breakout force of 38.2 kN.

Ground clearance

Terex has also added to its compact offering with the introduction of a new line of skid steer loaders during ConExpo - four radial lift path models (TSR50, TSR60, TSR70 and TSR80) and four vertical lift path units (TSV50, TSV60, TSV70 and TSV80).

The models feature engine sizes from 37.5 kW to 62.2 kW, and Terex highlighted the high ground clearances and rear angles of departure of the machines - 265 mm ground clearance and either 26° or 29° rear angles of departure, depending on the model.

For more news from the busy compact equipment market, see the upcoming May issue of iC's sister publication, Construction Europe, which will focus solely on the latest mini excavator launches and European application stories.

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