Compact equipment: Versatile by design
By Helen Wright09 February 2012
The compact construction equipment market is a competitive place and manufacturers of mini excavators and compact loaders are striving to make their machines both more productive and versatile. The ability to carry a wide variety of tools, work in confined spaces and manoeuvre around construction sites are key focuses, as many of the latest machines demonstrate.
The popular mini-excavator sector continues to expand with manufacturers introducing more weight options to their range and upgrading machines with advanced hydraulics.
Terex, for instance, has launched three new minis which are being manufactured under a supply agreement with Italy's Sampierana. Due to be showcased at the Intermat exhibition, the new machines - the 1 tonne TC10, 1.5 tonne CT15 and 1.9 tonne TC19 - have engines from 7.6 kW to 1.2 kW, and offer digging depths from 1.62 m to 2.3 m.
Terex will also showcase its new TC16 Twin Drive mini excavator, which has an electric drive alongside the diesel engine, making it suitable for indoor work and applications in other areas where exhaust emissions would be an issue.
JCB also plans to expand its mini excavator line up at the forthcoming Intermat exhibition with the introduction of the 2.7 tonne 8026 CTS. The machine's weight is such that it can be towed in many European countries by someone holding a standard driving licence, but the excavator is also a strong performer, with a high lifting capacity and travel speed.
Increased efficiency allows the 8026 CTS to use the same engine family as the smaller 8025 ZTS - providing a +14% efficiency gain.
Meanwhile, Yanmar has focused on tail swing with its new mini-excavator launches - it will show four new models at Intermat, three of which are zero tail swing models (machines which keep the radius of the upper body within the width of the tracks) and one short tail swing machine, which has some upper-body tail swing outside the tracks.
The largest will be the 8 tonne Universal Vio80 mini excavator - a machine Yanmar claims is the only genuine zero tail swing excavator in its weight category, allowing it to work in confined areas were other similarly sized machines could not fit.
Despite the fact that the whole machine is just 2.27 m wide, Yanmar said the cabin is now 40% larger compared to the previous model thanks to a complete redesign. The Vio80 is equipped with a Tier 4 Interim-compliant, 40.7 kW Yanmar engine and can dig to a maximum depth of 4.1 m.
Hyundai has also introduced new size classes to its mini excavator line-up, and last year unveiled new models for its 9 Series, including the midi-size short tail-swing 6 tonne and 8 tonne models (the R60CR-9 and R80CR-9). Its 9 Series now ranges from 1.6 tonnes to 13 tonnes.
Not to be left behind, Caterpillar, has also introduced a raft of new machines to its compact line-up. In terms of mini-excavators, it will showcase the new 1.7 tonne 301.7D and 2.4 tonne 302.4D at the Intermat show, while it launched a new E-series at the World of Concrete show in Las Vegas in January.
The five new compact-radius machines - the 303.5E CR, 304E CR, 305E CR, 305.5E CR and 308E CR SB - are all equipped with Stage IIIB Tier 4 Interim-compliant engines. Operating weights range from 3.6 tonnes on the 303.5E CR, which is powered by a 24 kW engine, to 8.2 tonnes on the 308E CR SB, which is powered by a 50 kW engine.
Besides the new engines, a key improvement on the E-series machine is the Complete Operation Maintenance, Performance and Security System (Compass) control panel. As the name suggests, this high contrast touch-screen panel allows the operator to set a range of parameters on the machine, from selecting the operating mode, setting and fine-tuning attachment flows, monitoring maintenance needs and securing the excavator.
Skid steer launches
Caterpillar also introduced new, high-performance counterparts to its 272D skid steer loader and 299D compact tracked loader at World of Concrete. The company says the new 272D XHP and 299D XHP machines, which have high-flow hydraulics, are the largest, most powerful skid steer and compact tracked loaders it has ever built.
Also powered by Stage IIIB/Tier 4 Interim engines, engine power has increased on both XHP models from 71 KW to 79 kW. Rated operating capacity is 1.6 tonnes for the 272D XHP and 1.4 tonnes for the 299D XHP at 35% of tipping load.
In the case of the 272D XHP,an increased hydraulic flow has increased lift performance by some +19%, compared to the standard model, and allows it to run more powerful attachments.
For example, the model exhibited at World of Concrete was shows with a 1.2 m wide milling attachment. Other features included a 'return to dig' function, whereby the machine automatically positions the bucket for a new digging cycle at the push of the button.
This year is likely to see a flurry of activity in the skid-steer market, due to new engine emissions laws prompting the launch of new models. But in addition to the need for new engines, manufacturers will also take the opportunity to improve performance, safety and ease of serviceability.
Yanmar will have three new skid steers on its stand at Intermat - the 752, 903 and 903 Speed+ models. Built in partnership with Slovakian manufacturer Way Industry, the machines are powered by Yanmar Tier 4 Interim-compliant engines ranging from 44 kW to 51 kW. The 752 has a capacity of 750 kg, while the 903 and Speed+ models are rated at 900 kg.
Serviceability and maintenance are other key features - the skid steers are said to have easy access to all components, filters and hydraulic pumps and their cabs can also be removed.
Volvo is set to showcase its C Series range of four skid steer loaders and three compact tracked loaders at Intermat after the machines were introduced in North America at last year's ConExpo exhibition.
The loaders feature a single arm design, thanks to Volvo's manufacturing partnership with JCB, the company that pioneered the concept. Operators use a side door to get in and out of the machines, rather than climbing over the bucket, as on traditionally designed skid steers.
The wheeled models on show in Paris will be the MC60C, MC70C, MC95C and MC115C, featuring rated operating capacities from 610 kg to 1.2 tonnes and gross engine power from 36 kW to 55 kW.
The three tracked models being launched in Europe are the MCT85C, MCT125C and MCT145C, which have rated operating capacities from 860 kg to 1.5 tonnes and gross engine power from 49 kW to 69 kW.
Two of the wheeled models - the MC60C and MC70C - are radial lift machines, while the rest have vertical lifting arms.
Radial lift arms offer higher breakout forces and swing out in an arc before reaching their maximum height. As such they are best suited to excavation work, grading and digging. Vertical lift machines are suited to material handling and loading since maximum outreach is achieved at the top of the lift path.
Mustang has also updated its 2056 skid steer model. The new machine, known as the 2056 Series II, features a 51 kW Yanmar engine that complies with Tier 4 Interim emissions legislation, and can lift 930 kg when equipped with a counterweight. The 2056 Series II also boasts good visibility to the rear tyres, while its open-front design provides better visibility to the front. The overall machine width is 1.5 m and it is available with standard or high-flow auxiliary hydraulics.
Compact wheeled loaders are also popular workhorse machines, and Mustang's sister company Gehl - both brands owned by Manitou - has launched three new articulated models, the 140, 340 and 540 machines.
Designed for high flexibility in confined spaces, they feature a heavy-duty oscillating joint offering 45o turning angles to the left and right and 10o of oscillation in both directions, and are also said to be compatible with virtually all universal-type attachments.
Compact sizes from as narrow as 41 in (1.04 m) on the model 140 allow easy access to extremely tight spaces. The new wheeled loaders come equipped with Yanmar Stage IV Interim-compliant diesel engines ranging range from 23 hp (17 kW) on the model 140, to 47 hp (35 kW) on the 540.
Other compact equipment categories include backhoe loaders - a market which will also see new introductions this year. Caterpillar will showcase its new F-series, which will be represented by the 428F and 432F, at Intermat, while Hidromek will display its new 62SS backhoe loader.
Flexibility is also a key design concept for these machines - Hidromek's 62SS, for instance, features a mechanical loader quick coupler, auxiliary hydraulic lines and hydraulic breaker lines as standard and can carry hydraulic breakers, dozer blades, augers, agricultural grab tools, pallet forks and a range of bucket sizes.
There have also been new compact telescopic handler launches this year - relatively new machines for the compact market.
Liebherr, for instance, will use Intermat introduce its new four-model range of telescopic handlers. Like the previous models, lifting heights remain 10 to 13 m, but maximum capacities have been increase to 4.1 to 5 tonnes. A low pivot point makes for stable machines, while Liebherr says the location of the lifting cylinders on the side of the boom helps reduce torsional stresses.
Meanwhile, New Holland will introduce the LM625 at Intermat - a compact telescopic handler that measures less than 2 m in height and width, and has with a narrow turning radius of 3.4 m.
This 4.8 tonne machine is well-suited for confined job sites. It can lift up to 2.5 tonnes to a height of 6 m and is said to be compatible with a wide range of attachments as well as couplers to fit skid steer loader and attachments from rival brands.
The compact construction equipment market is a fast-moving industry, with contractors demanding ever more powerful equipment that can still fit into confined construction sites and be transported easily.
Manufacturers are also coming under increasing pressure to reduce the fuel consumption of the latest models, whilst increasing efficiency and productivity at the same time. And as the start of the year has demonstrated, they are rising to the challenge with a flood of advanced new models.