Tracked platforms with outriggers may continue to be a niche product in the access sector, but it’s one that’s picking up momentum in new markets, like North America. Euan Youdale reports.
There were dozens of product launches at APEX in June and some of the more notable were tracked platforms. Italy-based Oil & Steel’s latest machine, the 18 m working height Octopus 18 was on show.
According to Giovanni Tacconi, sales director with Oil & Steel, the tracked platform is still a niche product, but that niche is getting a bit bigger. He explains that while Europe is saturated with these machines, North America and Australia are becoming the next big buyers of the equipment.
“The first six months of 2014 have been fantastic for us,” says Mr Tacconi, “The UK is the most positive market in Europe; it’s like North America, there’s a real positive mood. We are increasing our turnover but Italy is extremely negative – no one wants to invest.”
On the other hand, it would be better for many manufacturers if tracks remained a niche product. “Otherwise the big manufacturers will start producing them and we will find it difficult to compete,” says Mr Tacconi.
At APEX Palazzani launched the 43 m working height XTJ 43/C. It replaces the 42/C with a 19 m outreach, maximum basket capacity of 300 kg and total weight of 11500 kg. It is available in diesel and hybrid and has a new communication system to check operational statues. According to Laura Gasparini, export manager at Palazzani, “The market is growing from 30 m to 40 m. The question will be, can we achieve cold rental with a 40 m machine?”
Also at APEX was TCA Lift with the new Falcon Spider FS3302. It’s a 33 m working height machine and has 19 m outreach up to 21 m. In the past the maximum outreach was 15 m. Finn Schlitterlau, TCA Lift’s chief executive officer, said, “Customers tell us that height is one thing, weight is another, but outreach gives them the opportunity to be more productive, for example you can clean a whole façade.”
It has a Kubota diesel engine plus a 220 V battery. Asked if Lithium batteries have been a consideration, Mr Schlitterlau replied, “Some of our competition have bought in Lithium. We have looked at it but most important is the charge capacity. If you only have 220 volts, the charging time for Lithium is too long. So you need a quick charge option. We have an 80 amp, 220 volt package. If you charge the machine overnight you will have a full day of normal use.”
Mr Schlitterlau says tracked platforms are set to grow in popularity due to more architecturally-designed buildings which will complement their flexibility. Plus there are more requirements for these machines in tree cutting and cleaning. The issue of tracked machines and their potential for use in the rental sector is now a perennial one. “We have seen the improvements in ease of use,” says Mr Schlitterlau. An example from TCA Lift is the patent-pending Compass function, which switches the direction of the remote controls as the machine turns so that left, right, forward and backwards always remain the same.
Italy-based CMC launched a new tracked platform the S25 at the show. It will replace the S24, and means the S 25 is now the smallest of the company’s large range, with a new S23 to be launched by the end of this year becoming the largest of its smaller range.
The 25 m S25 is a hybrid, and offers a new stabilisation system which allows self-loading on to a trailer, tracks with adjustable width and a negative angle boom. The new machines will also offer the SES (self control system), designed in cooperation with control specialist Moba in Germany. It includes automatic stabilisation, go-home function and magnetic manipulators.
The heavy duty machine is suitable for the North American market says Giovanni Carbonara, CMC export manager. “America likes heavy duty machines - strong and able to work 20 degrees below zero and in the tree industry.” Mr Carbonara says business is growing by 20% to 30% a year in the USA, making it the biggest growth market. Asia is also a good market but for bigger booms above 32 m, he adds, for renovation to big buildings like convention centres.
Fellow Italian manufacturer CTE will launch the new Traccess 150 over the next few months. It has a 14.4 m working height. It will complement the manufacturer’s other tracked machines: the 13 m, 17 m and 23 m. In essence it’s a range filler, but an important one for forestry work and similar applications. The basket can be brought down to ground level, making it easier for the operator to enter and exit the machine.
ATN is set to extend its crawler range too with a 23 m platform. It too will be designed of the rental market. Arnaud Duclos, chairman of the ATN management board, says, “Every spider is different and very complicated to use. We are trying to deliver a new type of spider that is user-friendly and rental-friendly.”
ATN would like to see tracked platforms break out of the niche, and Mr Duclos thinks its solution will help deliver that. The new machine will have a 1.2 m width, which will make it wider than a standard door in a residential property, and runs counter to the argument that tracked machines must be super compact. But as Mr Duclos explains, a 23 m machine will not be used in residential properties, but more likely buildings with wider doors, like, he suggests, gymnasiums.
The prototype of the new machine will be ready next years, says Mr Duclos and will be followed by a 17 m model afterwards.
Teupen’s modular approach
Teupen showcased a prototype of a new modular personnel basket ‘building kit system’ at APEX. The VersaTek is made from high-strength aluminium, and allows customers to replace one single part, if needed, instead of the entire basket. Components are separate and nothing is welded. Dimensions are 1.2 m x 0.8 m x 1.1 m. “This is lighter and cheaper for the customer,” the company said. Production is expected to begin in 2015 and the basket will be available for all Teupen models.
Omme in action
Danish manufacturer Omme Lift has added a new lightweight 42 m hybrid tracked boom lift to its range. The 4200 RBDJ comes with a seven-section telescopic boom, offering a working height of 42 m and an outreach of up to 15.2m, making it the manufacturer’s largest machine.
Omme officially launched the 4200 RBDJ at APEX 2014 and expects to ship the first units from its factory in Denmark in the third quarter of this year.
The Hinowa Lightlift 20.10 Performance IIIS is now available in a lithium version. It means the 20 m working height platform can be used almost six hours continuously on its own, while the tracked chassis can be driven for about 2.5 hours. Overall it works out at one standard day per charge, said the manufacturer. A complete charge cycle takes about five hours, but in 2.5 hours 80% of the pack is charged.