The earthmoving sector's seismic shift

12 December 2011

Caterpillar’s 12M2 all-wheel-drive grader features an advanced variable power system.

Caterpillar’s 12M2 all-wheel-drive grader features an advanced variable power system.

If there was any doubt whether the Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB emissions legislations have made an impact on the global construction equipment industry, look no further than the earthmoving sector.

From excavators to wheeled loaders, haulers, graders and dozers - the sector has been inundated with new machines since January, when the regulations in the US and Europe kicked in for 130 kW to 560 kW engines.

But the focus has not only been on developing new, environmentally friendly engines. A range of technology from advanced hydraulics to machine control systems is increasingly standard equipment, rather than an option on the latest machines.

For example, since the start of the year, Caterpillar's launches have included a new B series generation of articulated dump trucks, a new H series of scrapers, three new tracked dozers, two new carry dozers, a new K series of wheeled loaders and a host of new additions to its excavator line-up from mini models, upgraded wheeled models and heavy duty tracked models.

The latest new earthmovers from Cat came in November, when the manufacturer introduced a further four machines to its M2 series of graders, but a uniting feature of all the new launches is a relentless focus on fuel efficiency and productivity.

The M2 series now includes eight models from 189 hp
(141 kW) to 283 hp (208 kW) and the latest models, the 120M2 and 12M2 and their all-wheel-drive counterparts, have been initially launched just for North America.

Together with emissions-compliant engines, the M2 graders also feature an optional grade control cross slope system and an advanced variable power system as standard - technology which helps improve traction and optimise engine performance.

Also new this November from Caterpillar was an upgrade to its D9T tracked dozer. New features on the 49 tonne, 206 kW machine include a dynamic inclination monitor that provides readouts of the D9T's pitch angle and slope, and an operator-presence system which locks out the power train and hydraulic system to avoid unintentional machine movement when the operator is entering or leaving the cab.

The D9T has also been upgraded with an enhanced auto shift system, which provides forward and reverse speeds similar to an automatic transmission and can help boost productivity and fuel efficiency.

Fuel-saving technology

Improved fuel efficiency is a common theme across this year's new launches. Komatsu's new PC240LC-10 hydraulic excavator, for example, consumes up to -10% less diesel than its predecessor, but delivers +5% more power.

Powered by an EU Stage IIIB/US Tier 4 Interim 132 kW Komatsu SAA6D107E-2 engine, the 26 tonne class machine boasts an automatic auto-deceleration system that is said to reduce fuel usage during idle conditions by up to -30%.

The PC240LC-10 is also equipped with the company's Komtrax telematics system, which sends machine operating information wirelessly to a secure website, allowing problems to be diagnosed remotely and reducing the risk of theft.

This kind of remote monitoring technology is becoming well-established as a standard feature on many new models, while advanced load-sensing hydraulic systems are also becoming more and more widespread on the latest earthmoving machinery.

Volvo, like its rivals, has also launched a host of new Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB-compliant earthmoving equipment since the start of 2011, including its F series range of ADTs, its G series wheeled loaders, new heavy duty excavators and a G900B-Series grader.

Again, the focus has been on fuel efficiency. The six new ADTs range from the 24 tonne A25F up to the 39 tonne A40F and are said to be up to +4% more efficient than their E-series predecessors, boosted by a new load sensing, closed centre hydraulic system

In terms of new excavators, Volvo introduced the EC340D, EC380D and EC480D tracked models (weighing between 34 tonnes and 51 tonnes) this year. These new machines feature a two-pump hydraulics system that combines the flow of both pumps for quick cycle times and greater productivity when only a single function is being used.

Similarly, Volvo's latest wheeled loaders - the Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIB-compliant L110G, L120G, L150G, L180G (including a high lift version), L220G and L250G - feature upgraded hydraulic pumps that allow for higher working pressures.

The new machines cover standard bucket sizes ranging from 2.7 m3 to 5.1 m3, and the L120G for example offers +20% more lifting force and +5% more breakout force than its predecessor, but with lower fuel consumption - up to a -5% saving in load and carry or truck loading work.

Case and its sister company New Holland have also overhauled their excavator lines this year. Both companies unveiled new ranges, and the most recent launches came from New Holland, which in October added two mid-weight crawler excavators to its new C series. The range now includes four models from 21 tonnes to 31 tonnes, all sporting EU Stage IIIB-compliant engines that are said to save up to 10% more fuel while being +10% more productive.

New Holland's new E215C and E245C have operating weights of 23 tonnes and 25 tonnes respectively and, like the other C series models, have been fitted with upgraded hydraulics and advanced electronic processors that provide highly responsible controls and deliver extra power when needed.

Meanwhile, new Tier 4 Interim earthmoving releases from John Deere this year include the six-model G series of tracked excavators, the new 850K crawler dozer, a redesigned range of G series graders, the new 755K crawler loader and the new 850K crawler dozer.

The most recent additions came in the form of three new, heavy duty excavators to the G Series - the 47 tonne 470G, the
67 tonne 670G LC and the 87 tonne 870G LC.

John Deere, which owns a stake in South African ADT specialist Bell (see P. 41) this year also announced plans for its largest ever ADT, the 46 tonne 460E. The first of Deere's new E-Series ADTs, due out in 2012, is powered by an US/EU emissions-compliant 13.5 l John Deere engine, and features automated traction controls and an on-board weighing scale as standard.

Doosan, too, unveiled a flurry of new Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB earthmoving models this year, including the first of its LC-3 range of heavy duty excavators in the shape of the 32 tonne DX300LC-3 crawler. This machine went into production in the last quarter and introduction of the range - 15 models in total - will be spread over the next two years.

The company also introduced the DL450, a 25 tonne Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB wheeled loader - the first of five new wheeled loader launches planned - as well as the first two articulated dump trucks (ADTs) in its new DA range.

The 276 kW, 30 tonne capacity DA30 and 368 kW, 40 tonne capacity DA40 both feature Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB Scania engines, but, significantly, the DA30 is also available with a Tier II engine - making it potentially marketable outside the EU and US.

Indeed, while it has been an extremely busy year in terms of machines aimed at these mature markets, there have also been new launches from manufacturers targeting fast-growing but less-regulated markets such as China, Latin America and India.
And while emerging markets may not have the same stringent regulations on emissions as Europe and the US, other factors like operator comfort, fuel efficiency and productivity and ease of maintenance are vitally important.

Chinese equipment manufacturer Shantui, for example, unveiled its most powerful dozer yet at this year's BICES exhibition Beijing in October. The SD52-5 crawler dozer is powered by a 390 kW, EU IIIA-compliant engine and was designed for large-scale earthmoving projects in rugged environments.

As well as a ROPS/FOPS certified dust-proof, low noise cab, the SD52-5 features a modular design for easy assembly and disassembly and simple maintenance.

Significantly, Shantui says the SD52-5's wear parts, including rollers and tracks, are interchangeable with parts on competitor machines, which makes the procurement of spares easier.

In addition to developing machines for the Chinese market and other emerging economies, Shantui is also targeting the US - 2011 also saw it launch its first dozer aimed at this market in the form of the SD10YE. With its 74 kW Cummins engine, the Tier 3-compliant machine is the smallest in Shantui's arsenal.

Richard Li, Vice President for International at Shantui, said "This is our first product that meets the stringent emission standards of Europe and the US. It is on the vanguard of a whole line of new products that we will be introducing in the coming years."

But breaking into the US and European markets is no mean feat, and newcomers must raise the bar in terms of the sophistication of their machinery, as well as face down the huge competition from established manufacturers. With Intermat, M&T Expo, Hillhead coming up in 2012, and of course, Bauma China, another busy year full of machine launches is looking likely.

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