Little movers

25 April 2008

One of the first of Bobcat's new T250 compact tracked loaders is clearing rocks in front of the Roya

One of the first of Bobcat's new T250 compact tracked loaders is clearing rocks in front of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat station at Flamborough to prevent launch problems.

Until Five Years Ago the Compact loader sector was defined by small wheeled loaders and skid steer loaders but these have since been joined by a new variant - the tracked loader. Most tracked loaders are based on the design of the skid steer loader but offer the same performance with lower ground pressure and this has helped it to gain market share from its wheeled rivals, as well as opened up new markets.

One of the first of Bobcat's new T250 compact tracked loaders is already working in just such a new market, and is actually helping to save lives off the East Yorkshire coast in the UK. Continued accumulation of rocks and seaweed in front of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat station at Flamborough was causing launch problems and the T250 is helping to overcome the difficulty.

Any delay in launching the lifeboat could result in loss of life and the RNLI is using the T250 to clear the rocks and reconstruct the beach surface in front of the boathouse. According to Bobcat, conventional compact wheeled loaders would sink on the soft sand but the T250 is fitted with 457 mm rubber tracks, which only exert 281 g/cm2of ground pressure.

“Over the last five years the compact tracked loader market has grown significantly,” said Bobcat's European business manager for loaders Kevin Zimmer. “The rapid growth of the compact tracked machines is being driven by three main factors - greater productivity, new applications and demand for more attachments.

“The tracked loaders may have the same engine as a wheeled version, but because they have more rubber in contact with the ground, they offer a greater tractive force without impacting on fuel efficiency. The lower ground pressure means that the tracked machines cause less ground disturbance so can be used on wetter or softer ground, offering a longer working season.

“The tracked loaders can be used for the same applications as a wheeled loader. But because of their greater tractive force they are more effective at driving different attachments - such as brush cutters and cold planers.”

Bobcat launched its first tracked loader in 1999 but has now updated the range with four new models - the T180, T190, T250 - which is already in operation for the RNLI - and T300. The new models have rated operating capacities of between 816 kg (T180) and 1,36 tonnes (T300) and offer tipping loads of up to 4,17 tonnes.

The updated range features new track rollers and idlers, which have additional rollers to reduce the spacing between the rollers and maximise the contact between the track and roller. According to Bobcat, this allows for better weight distribution and increased drive power and also reduces the possibility of de-tracking.

Case and Komatsu have also added new tracked loaders to their product ranges this year.

Case's new 42 kW 420CT and 61 kW 440CT tracked loaders have doubled the company's range to four models. According to Case, the new models maximise productivity by using the company's dozer-style undercarriages. “We designed our compact tracked loaders based on input from our customers and our experience with undercarriages from our crawler dozer product line,” said Case brand marketing manager Jim Hughes.

The new Case machines have an angled track frame with material scrapers to reduce mud build - up and the steel embedded tracks sit on rubber rollers to improve track service life and ride. The tracked loaders also feature a Rexroth drive motor with an oversized bearing in line with the drive sprocket and a lifetime sealed and oil lubricated roller and idler system to make it easier to keep material out.

Komatsu has also doubled its compact tracked loader line up with the addition of the 62 kW CK25-1 and 62,5 kW CK35-1, which offer operating capacities of 980 kg and 1,47 tonnes, respectively. Komatsu classes the machines as crawler skid steer loaders and, according to the company, the vertical lifting arm combined with the tracks gives the machines outstanding digging force and lifting capabilities.

Mecalac's latest launch - the 6 tonne 8 MCR - is officially classed as a compact crawler excavator but the company's unique boom design means that it can also be used as a loader. A front facing bucket can be attached via the quick coupler and filled from a stockpile and lifted and discharged from height.

Wheeled Update

Growing numbers of manufacturers are adding tracked machines to their product ranges in response to customer demand, but the market for compact wheeled loaders is still strong.

According to construction equipment research specialist Off-Highway Research, the number of compact wheeled loaders sold in Western Europe has steadily climbed over the last four years. Off - Highway Research estimates that 7900 machines were sold in the region last year and expect the number of sales to rise to over 8250 this year.

“The compact loader market is strong through out Europe at the moment and is particularly good in Western Europe, but new markets are also opening up in Eastern Europe and the CIS,” said Mr Zimmer. “Over the last couple of years we have seen a shift in sales of compact loaders towards larger machines. But not larger in terms of footprint, larger in terms of rated operating capacity. This is being driven partly by the need to move larger materials around on site but also to provide performance for the latest attachments and to give faster cycle times.”

The latest developments in New Holland's wheeled loader range are aimed at adding functionality and follow on from developments on many larger wheeled loaders. The four models in the company's new TC range all feature a 'tool carrier' mono-boom linkage instead of the traditional Z-bar front linkage.

The redesigned linkage allows the front attachment to be lifted parallel to the ground, allowing pallet forks to be used. This adds to the versatility of the machine and the visibility for the operator, but the parallel linkage generally offers less breakout force than a Z-bar.

The New Holland TC range - the W50TC, W60TC, W70TC and W80TC - are powered by naturally aspirated or turbo charged Deutz F4M2011 engines, rated at 40, 44, 45 and 56 kW, respectively. The TC range has operating weights of between 4,7 and 5,8 tonnes and, when fitted with a multipurpose bucket, the machines offer breakout forces in the 54 to 75 kN range and tipping loads of up to 4,4 tonnes.

Komatsu's new 55 kW WA90-5 and 61,5 kW WA100M-5 compact wheeled loaders feature the company's 'Easy Fork' loader linkage. The system allows for parallel movement, similar to New Holland's tool carrier, and can carry high payloads in pallet fork applications. The machines are fitted with a hydraulic quick coupler as standard to allow the operator to rapidly switch between forks, buckets and other attachments. The loaders also have a top speed of 30 km/h, allowing them to move quickly between sites and they also feature a tilt-up cab for easy maintenance access.

The latest addition to KrammerAllrad's range is the 750T, a telescopic boom compact loader. The machine has an operating weight of 4,8 tonnes and lifts 2 tonnes to a dump height of 2,55 m. The machine has a rigid chassis but its four wheel steering gives it the manoeuvrability needed.

Mecalac's German subsidiary, Ahlmann has improved the operation of its AS 90 tele - a wheeled loader with a swivelling, telescopic front end. The machine is now available with an overload alarm and load indicator similar to the type used in the crane industry.

Volvo has not updated its compact wheeled loader range, but it is now available with a new range of options designed to provide better protection when working in tough environments, such as recycling applications. The new protection options include solid and foldable engine hood guards and front and rear underside covers to prevent debris from damaging hoses, drivelines and brake components.

Strap on lift protectors are also available and glass can be shielded by a feathered flat steel cage, which maintains visibility but protects both the glass and operator. The new range of options can be specified on the L30B PRO, L35B PRO, L40B and L45B and can be selected individually or as packages to suit different applications.

Skid Steers

Despite the development of compact wheeled loaders and the arrival of the tracked machines, skid steer loaders are still the most popular type of compact loader in Europe. More than 11600 skid steer loaders were sold in Western Europe in 2005, according to Off-Highway Research, and the level of sales is expected to remain steady this year at around 11535.

Bobcat has updated its medium framed skid steer loaders - the S130, S150, S160, S175, S185 and S205 - and its large framed models - the S220, S250 and S300, as well as its large framed all wheel steer loader, the A300.

All the new models feature a more efficient cooling system provided by a new hydraulically driven variable speed fan, which automatically senses the temperature of the machine and adjusts itself to provide sufficient cooling. According to Bobcat, the system uses less power and is up to 30% quieter than the system used on previous models.

Other changes to the medium framed range includes fitting of the hydraulic system previously only used on the large framed models, which includes a charge pump to boost overall hydraulic performance. The upgrade means that breakout forces are up +8% and hydraulic lifting capacity is increased +7%, which Bobcat claims enables the machine to deliver more attachment torque.

The large frame models and all wheel steer machine have been enhanced with a larger displacement hydraulic pump. The bucket hinge pin on the S250, S300 and A300 has also been increased by 51 mm to offer more lift height for use with fork lift attachments.

One of the latest company's to add skid steer loaders to its product line up is Neuson Kramer. The first two models - the 510 kg capacity 501s and 680 kg capacity 701s - were launched last year but were displayed for the first time at Intermat in April. The launch follows on from Neuson Kramer's acquisition of designs from UK-based Belle and the new models still feature the 'quattrostatic' drive design, with a separate hydraulic motor for each wheel.

Compact Prospects

Bobcat's Mr Zimmer is confident that sales of compact loaders in Europe will continue to be strong this year. Off-Highway Research latest report agrees with Mr Zimmer's expectation and estimates that sales of compact loaders will reach a five year high of 19790 this year. However, Off- Highway Research believes that this year's sales will represent a peak and predicts a slight decline in sales through to 2010 to 17865 units.

The slight fall in sales means that manufacturers will be working harder to gain a competitive edge in this key construction equipment market. This, combined with the introduction of the European Stage IIIA/US Tier 3 engine emissions laws on 1 January 2008, means that there are is likely to be a wave of innovative new compact loaders launched towards the end of 2007.

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