Cover Story: 2008 Innovations

John Deere
It means just what it says – never grease a wheel loader pin joint again.

There’s no way around it: keeping wheel loader pin joints properly greased is a pain. First, you have to manage whether or not it gets done – and on a daily basis. Then you’re never sure if each pin is getting enough grease, or that the grease is going to the right areas within the pin joint. Sure, there are auto-lube systems, but they have to be managed, too.

“First there’s the question of when do you grease?,” says Larry Bergquist, senior engineer, advanced research and development, John Deere Construction & Forestry Division. “No one wants to get dirty first thing in the morning and it’s the last thing you’d want to do before you leave work, so timing becomes an issue. Then there are the production issues – inevitably the grease gun is empty so a 10-minute task becomes a 30-minute task as you go hunt for grease.”

Add to that the uncertainty that you’ve done the job right even if you’ve done the job consistently. “Many people grease a joint until the grease comes out of the joint,” says Bill Lewis, executive engineering ambassador with Advanced Manufacturing Institute, which partnered with Deere on NeverGrease. “You still don’t know how consistently that grease got all around between the pin and the bushing.”

Pain points
And so as they started developing what eventually became the NeverGrease pin joints, Deere engineers knew they were addressing what the company calls customer “pain points.” The design team initially thought the project would primarily focus on giving loader pin joints longer life. “We had seen a variety of ways customers were trying to extend pin joint life,” Bergquist says. “Some were greasing twice a day and in multiple positions, such as with the bucket flat and with the bucket dumped.”

Through further discussions with customers, however, another equally troubling problem cropped up: variation in pin joint life. “This would occur even in the same model machines doing the same application,” Bergquist says. Customers also expressed frustration at the difficulty of ensuring all pin joints on a machine receive the consistent greasing needed to deliver long life.

“While one pin joint may be close to 100 percent worn, others could be at the 60 or 75 percent wear level,” adds Mark Stender, Deere’s engineering supervisor, four-wheel drive loaders. “There’s not enough wear to replace them, but they won’t make it to the next scheduled pin joint replacement. You end up leaving a lot on the table.”

“And the quality of daily greasing is largely responsible for this variation in pin joint life,” Bergquist says. “Once the damage starts, the pin joint is on a path to a shorter life.”

Three-fold mission
So the NeverGrease mission became three-fold: extend pin joint life, make pin joint life consistent and eliminate pin joint greasing, and do this all delivering thousands of hours in the field under varying operating conditions and applications. Deere used Advance Manufacturing Institute to assist in product testing. AMI developed a component laboratory test fixture that replicated the pin joint wear customers experienced in a variety of applications.

“These applications differed not only in loads and motions, but in varying levels of contamination, which can drastically affect results,” Bergquist says.

“And it was key to focus in on a few applications, such as working in sand, which had the lowest pin joint life.”

This testing resulted in a two-prong solution, designed to help level out the uneven wear across all joints in the loader boom, linkage and bucket. “The pin joint with the shortest life determines how long the loader can work before needing to be brought in for rebuild,” says David O’Keefe, Deere’s product marketing manager, four-wheel-drive loaders. “The two NeverGrease pin joints allow the life of entire system to be extended by using the solution that’s most suited for the operating conditions of a particular joint.”

  • For the in-the-dirt, under-load boom-to-bucket pin joints, Deere is using barrel-shaped roller bearings (which improve load distribution) contained in a bushing housing and lubricated for life. A seal surrounds the roller bearing and is integrated into the bushing housing. “These joints see the highest loads as well as the highest amount of contaminants because they’re always working in and out of the pile,” O’Keefe says. “Plus they’re the most apt to have a plugged zerk,” Lewis adds.
  • All other loader pin joints are designed with a filament-wound bushing that’s self-lubricated with embedded Teflon. The Teflon transfers to the chrome pin, so Teflon is gliding over Teflon. The pin housing is also sealed to keep contaminants out.

NeverGrease does not eliminate all maintenance between rebuilds; replacing external seals is recommended at 2,000-hour intervals, a one-and-a-half hour job. But when the joints do need to be rebuilt, the pin joints are pressed out and in, eliminating welding and line boring.

10,000 hours
Deere confidence in its NeverGrease product is underlined by its warranting NeverGrease pin joints to three years, or 10,000 hours. Additional life over traditional grease zerks depends on both your application and how well you managed your greasing operation prior to the use of NeverGrease. “This helps operations that had difficulty managing their pin life,” O’Keefe says. “And obviously we feel confident we can get it up to 10,000 hours before a rebuild.”

Deere has given their dealers a NeverGrease ROI Calculator to assist users in seeing the value of the pin joints. One example they use is that of a 744 Z-Bar loader an owner intends to keep for 10,000 hours (approximately 2,500 hours of annual use). Working five days a week an average of 10 hours a day, Deere estimates an owner will spend $7,500 annually in materials/grease and labor to manually grease the machine, calculated at a $35 per hour labor rate. Deere also calculates that with manual greasing the two bucket joints will be replaced and rebuilt at 3,500 hours, a job that will total $6,000. The 11 remaining joints will be rebuilt at 7,000 hours, and cost $6,000. The total for manual greasing over the entire 10,000 hours? $47,346. In contrast, the company estimates the the life cycle costs associated with NeverGrease option for this machine are $26,427 over the same time period, including all joints being rebuilt at 10,000 hours. This represents a $2.11/hour savings with NeverGrease over a manual system.

NeverGrease is currently available as an option on three Deere loaders – the 744J, 824J and 844J – and their list prices are costs $9,000 to $12,500. The company does not recommend using NeverGrease pin joints in demolition or scrap handling applications because of the potential of debris damaging a seal.

Why I chose this product
Not only has Deere eliminated a daily, dirty, hassle-filled job, they’ve taken the guess work out of when it’s time to down your machine for a pin joint job. NeverGrease gets operators turning the loader key earlier in the morning and eliminates managing a job no one is excited about. Plus, in minimizing the amount of grease on the jobsite, it makes these machines more environmentally friendly. Finally, no grease zerks means little grease build up and an overall cleaner machine.
-Marcia Gruver

Ditch Witch
The InterChangeable Zahn
Ditch Witch recreates its small trencher offering, and in the process designs much more than a trencher

With a name like Zahn, it’s no secret that with its new small trencher lineup Ditch Witch intended to create a tribute to company chairman and president Ed Malzahn. “We wanted a name that exemplifies what Ditch Witch stands for, providing solutions,” says Kevin Smith, Ditch Witch’s product manager for compact utility. “It’s a tie to our history.”

And also to the company’s future. Ditch Witch’s three-model Zahn lineup – the R150, R230 and R300 – offers features not seen in small trenchers before, including an articulation joint that allows users to stop muscling their way through curves. But the head turner in the series is the InterChange system available on the four-wheel-drive versions of the R230 and R300. With InterChange, the Zahn can make a five-minute switch to become one of seven different types of machines (see sidebar on opposite page).

So what’s the big deal? Attachments have been making “it’s a skid steer … no, it’s a sweeper” out of machines for years. But unlike an attachment that hangs off the machine, Ditch Witch argues the Zahn’s seven types of front ends are the machine.

In other words, Ditch Witch says, you can dig a trench 36 inches deep and 8 inches wide, follow tight landscaping curves, haul mounds of dirt and yards of concrete, plow in cable, grind a stump, and do each task on par with a dedicated machine.

The Zahn evolution
The evolution of Zahn, Smith says, came not so much from customers asking for specific features, but rather their asking for “continual improvements and solutions to their challenges on the jobsite.” Customers noted they had more women in their workforce – thus making the upper body force required by most walk-behind trenchers a problem. And it wasn’t just the women – any change that made the machines easier to handle would be a plus for the entire scarce workforce – including owners sometimes doing the job themselves.

Smith says the challenge throughout the Zahn development phase was one of balance. “How do you design it so that you don’t sacrifice performance and functionality to gain the versatility?,” he explains. “We didn’t want to build a machine that could do many things, but only in a moderate way.”

One of the first questions designers dealt with was how broad could the Zahn be? How many solutions could it provide to a variety of markets? “We started off with a pedestrian trencher and it just continued to develop,” Smith says.

“The challenge was developing a unique way to integrate multiple front ends into a power unit. We accomplished this by developing an InterChange connection that incorporates versatility into a dedicated unit without sacrificing performance,” says Jacob Hamburger, Ditch Witch design engineer.

The InterChange works on a similar principal to that of a tractor-trailer fifth-wheel hookup. Drive the power unit up under the front end to the end of the connection, then simply tighten two bolts (which are never lost because they swing down out of the way when you loosen them) with a provided standard wrench. Make the hydraulic color-coded hose connections and you’re ready to roll. “The power unit and front end self align, slide into each other and once connected, it’s solid,” Smith explains. “It typically takes less than five minutes.”

Beyond the InterChange
But Ditch Witch also didn’t forget the basic Zahn is still a trencher, so the company created a hydraulically driven independent auger – standard on the four-wheel drive trenchers and optional on the two-wheel drive machines. The advantage: It reduces the amount of carryover, which means that users don’t have to clean the site or dig as deep to get the required coverage they need. The auger is independent of the headshaft, so it easily moves spoils out of the trench. “Less carryover translates to more productivity since you’re digging at a truer depth,” Smith says.

And trenching jobs don’t always follow a straight line, which is where the Zahns’ fully hydraulic articulated steering comes into play. It’s no longer necessary to lean in and out of a curve when faced with obstacles such as trees and sculpted hardscape walls. And the 36-inch-wide size lets the units zip around tight jobsites.

One marching order for the product was improving visibility, both to the work area and to surroundings, so all Zahns are ride-behind units. Operators use an elevated work platform that not only gives them an unobstructed view of the work but also keeps them out of the dirt and debris.

Zahns also feature a ground speed of up to twice that of any walk-behind trencher, speeds the company says are comparable to those of mini skid steers. Cruise control is also standard.

Seven to start
What led to Ditch Witch’s decision on the initial seven basic types of front ends? “We first wanted to take care of the customer base we’re serving today,” Smith says.

Then Ditch Witch looked at providing solutions the company didn’t think were being served in present products on the market. One included the global opportunity represented by the dumper front end, a product that is more widely used outside the United States than in it. “But we also see the U.S. market growing,” Smith says, “and we didn’t see it addressed with a durable, construction grade rubber-tire product.”

The probability is that the first seven types will be the jumping point for front ends. “We see this as a platform we can build from,” Smith says. “We’re going to closely watch how customers use it and what other front ends can provide solutions to meet customers’ ever changing needs.”

Pricing runs from $11,500 to $22,500 depending on the number of front ends purchased.

What do you want to do today?
Ditch Witch is initially offering seven types of front ends for Zahn’s four-wheel-drive InterChange versions.

Trencher: Trench a straight line or trench a curve around a swimming pool or building, using up to a 12-inch chain.

Vibratory plow: Variable blade pitch lets you change the angle of the leading edge of the blade to be more or less aggressive to match soil conditions.

Backhoe: With a flat bottom depth of more than 5 feet, Ditch Witch says the Zahn backhoe can work in tight spaces and with greater mobility.

Tool carrier: Comes in either a high-lift or low-lift version. A mini skid-steer type attachment plate lets the tool carrier accept more than 40 quick-change attachments.

Dumper: The large dumper (20 cubic foot) and small dumper (12 cubic foot) have optional self-loading capability. Both versions have all-steel tubs that can handle rock, gravel, concrete and demolition debris.

Stump grinder: Solid wheel and tooth design gives you the ability to plunge cut; can process stumps of up to 24 inches high and 36 inches in diameter.

Tiller: Reversing capability helps dislodge rocks and other debris. Offset ability lets you till right next to fences or walls.

Why I chose this product
Small walk-behind trenchers are what they call in the business “a mature product.” Ditch Witch looked at the small trencher and envisioned it as something else – a power unit that could become fully integrated with a series of front ends. This concept totally ups the ante on the construction industry’s love of attachments. It will be fascinating to watch how this product evolves in the coming years.
-Marcia Gruver

Terex Roadbuilding
Series 6 concrete slipform paving kit
Lane width changes – fast and easy

It’s a concept machinists use all the time. Put two perfectly machined right-angle blocks together and the bottom edges will line up perfectly straight.

Now just move that concept from the machinist’s shop to a massive concrete paving profile pan and you have, more or less, the Terex Series 6 concrete slipform paving kit. Rather than use one long sheet of metal for the kit, the Series 6 kit is made up of a series of these right-angle blocks, what the company calls its StrongBox design. Sections are available with 3-foot ends, a 6-foot center crowning section and internal section widths of 1, 1.5, 2, 3 and 6 feet. With the blocks you can make up kits ranging in widths from 12 to 50 feet.

Rather than bolt the sections together, which would raise the risk of distorting the perfectly flat pan bottom and increase the time it would take to make lane width changes, the company devised a pin and wedge locking system to hold the assembly together. Dowel guide pins accurately align kit sections and the wedge locks eliminate the gap between the segments.

The sections are also 60 inches long, giving the pan what Terex claims is the longest finish zone in the industry. Internal radial cross bracing within the individual sections minimize deflection and precision machining on the mating edges and the bottoms insure that the profile pan is laser straight from the moment it’s put together, unlike traditional paving kits that require a string line and then hours of fine adjustment and bolt tightening to make flat.

Eliminating downtime
What makes the Series 6 kit most valuable to paving contractors is how easy it is to change widths. In a trial run near Dallas, Texas, last summer Marty Lampkin, paving superintendent for Sunmount Corporation got a feel for just how fast the Series 6 kit can be reconfigured. “It took about a half day to change widths,” Lampkin says. “With a regular paving kit that would have taken two to two-and-a-half 12-hour days.” The job called for three different lane widths and by using the quick-changing Series 6 kit, Lampkin estimates he cut about six days out of the time it would have taken his crews to complete the job.

The idea for the Series 6 kit was hatched in September 2005. Terex Roadbuilding had just come out with its new 3502/3504 tractor and was looking for a way to update or improve on its Series 1 and Series 2 kits.

In a sales meeting Tom Devonshire, concrete products sales engineer, posed a question to his team. “What is it that contractors dislike most about our kits or anyone’s kits?”

The answer: changing widths was too labor intensive. “But rather than trying to improve something nobody likes, we decided to develop something completely different that everyone needs,” Devonshire says.

The team included Jim Johnson, then the new sales director, John Eisenhower, district sales manager, and Red Lampkin and Hershel Cunningham, field product support/service representatives guys who had recently become sales representatives. “With the five of us there was a combined 150 years of product knowledge,” Devonshire says. “So I was confident we could come up with something without having to go to an outside engineering source or task our own internal engineering resources.”

Building a miniature
The group kicked around a few ideas, built a miniature version of the kit by hand with help from the company welding bay and then built a full size kit section prior to getting engineering involved. “We wanted to get the basic concepts established without bogging down our engineering resources because they’ve got enough on their plate without having to design a completely new concept. So we did the legwork first.”

Engineering drew up the design and ran a structural analysis to help determine where the pins should go and then it was on to manufacturing. And while the individual kit sections were built out of standard 7⁄8-inch steel plate, the concept would only work if the plates could be machined square and flat to a tolerance of .003 of an inch – less than the thickness of a human hair. “We asked them to make it flat with two Ts,” Devonshire says.

An additional challenge was making sure that both sides of the box were equal in thickness so that the pin/wedge lock system worked no matter what kit section was dropped into the lineup. The need for equal thickness sides wasn’t discovered until the crew began putting together the full-scale prototypes and they discovered the wedges were bottoming out when the sections were put together. Shims were suggested as a solution, but later rejected. “I wanted as few pieces as possible on this kit,” Devonshire says. “Contractors have to deal with shims now and they’re a pain because you have to put them in and take them out. It’s just one more piece to keep track of.”

To hold these Swiss-watch-like tolerances on such massive steel assemblies (they weigh about 1,000 pounds per linear foot), Devonshire’s group came up with a jig to use in the fabrication and a process that’s still a company secret.

Cutting down hoses
Along with the quick-change sections, Devonshire’s team also redesigned the layout of the vibrator manifolds and hoses. With a traditional concrete paving kit the hydraulic manifolds for the vibrators are mounted on the tractor. That equals a lot of hoses, a lot more chances for hose damage and limited visibility from the operator’s stand. With the Series 6 kit the vibrator manifold is mounted directly to the kit. The longest individual hose is just 6 feet, visibility is greatly enhanced and the heat coming from the hoses is reduced.

Devonshire estimates that this design results in a reduction of approximately 500 feet of hydraulic hosing.

For concrete distribution in front of the screed, Terex also developed a plow to go with the Series 6 kit. Augers are also available as an option, but Devonshire says the plow configuration is more in tune with the original keep-it-simple philosophy. “With augers you have to unbolt them and keep track of additional components on every width change,” he says. The plow travels back and forth in front of the machine on a telescoping steel tube with no additional adjustments or component changes regardless of the width of the job.

Additionally, the maintenance cost of the plow is substantially less than an auger system.

The weight of the kit sections make up the profile pan make the Series 6 about 55 percent stronger than conventional kits and this has a beneficial effect on the smoothness of the finished concrete. The hydraulic properties of wet concrete tend to push tractors and paving kits up off the ground, compromising smoothness. The strength and weight of the Series 6 kit reduces that tendency and improves smoothness. In its first real-world outing on a job in Blackwell, Oklahoma, the contractor was able to achieve ride numbers that were less than 1 inch on 2/10ths blanking units.

The screed’s weight also proved its worth on the job with Sunmount in Dallas. There the Texas DOT asked Sunmount to use an “optimized gradation mix,” essentially a stiffer concrete mix with more aggregate sizes and higher flyash content. Despite this challenge, supervisor Lampkin was impressed with his results “It turned out a better product than I figured it would,” he says. “There was no grinding. The quick change saved a lot of downtime. It would be a plus for any contractor.”

A subsequent field evaluation in Ohio resulting in IRI (International Roughness Index) numbers in the 50’s which was better than the Terex Roadbuilding team predicted, Devonshire says.

Why I chose this product
Downtime is a profit killer for any contractor. That proves doubly true for paving contractors. The Series 6 kit tackles that problem head on, not with a refinement of an old idea but a completely new design.

The idea behind the Series 6 paving kit wasn’t particularly fancy or complicated. Devonshire refers to the first prototype as the “blacksmith” version. It didn’t require PhDs, high power software or venture capital investments – just five guys sitting around a conference table throwing out ideas. The key here is that they were all experienced paving veterans, and there is a lesson to be learned in that. In corporate cultures that view employees as interchangeable units, experience is sometimes overlooked or undervalued. But Terex Roadbuilding, by developing the Series 6 kit and eliminating days of downtime for contractors like Sunmount, has proven that experience can be the most valuable asset of all.
-Tom Jackson

High and mighty
Distinctive looks aside, the Grove GTK1100 has a mission – lift medium-sized loads at above average heights in confined areas

Simply put, says Manitowoc, the Grove GTK1100 is what their customers asked for.

“It’s a good example of our customer-based product development process,” says Michael W. Preikschas, Manitowoc’s senior product manager for the GTK. “It involved lengthy interviews with customers, discussing the latest applications and requirements.”

And what did these customers want? A flexible, easily set up crane that could lift medium-sized loads to tall heights, even in areas where set-up space is limited. Another request, with an eye towards saving fuel, equipment and labor costs: reduce the number of trucks it takes to transport the crane to the jobsite.

Manitowoc says it “put traditional ideas aside and focused on developing a crane that’s truly revolutionary.” The company used engineering expertise from all three of its crane brands: Grove, Manitowoc and Potain. “We needed knowledge from Potain for the tower, Grove for the mobile crane element and Manitowoc’s crawler crane fast-connecting technology,” Preikschas says.

A two-year job
Manitowoc says it had a typical two-year product development cycle on the GTK, starting in late 2005 on the project. The result: A crane that sports a 251-foot, six-section telescopic tower extending straight up from the lowerworks, or base, topped by a five-section, 197-foot telescopic boom (straight from Grove’s GMK7450 all-terrain 550-ton capacity crane). Four spreaders at the top of the mast attach to the outriggers at the base via pendant links to provide stability. It can lift up to 77 tons at heights of more than 394 feet and has a maximum lift height of 459 feet.

But there’s more, or rather, less. GTK’s requires about 50 percent less floor space – depending on the type of conventional crane to which it’s compared – allowing it to squeeze into clogged industrial sites. Perhaps most important, the crane can be transported on just four or five trailers (depending on local weight laws) – a sharp reduction from large crawler or all-terrain cranes that can require up to 25 trailers.

But all these numbers aside, it’s the GTK’s distinctive look that draws your initial attention. It has the height of a tower crane, but that’s where the similarity ends. This crane has capacity oomph, not to mention the fact it can be set up in six hours.

A choreographed ballet
As shown in a video – available on our digital magazine – the erection procedure resembles a choreographed ballet. Using a 220-ton all-terrain crane to assist in assembly, crews connect the four outriggers to the tower section while it’s still in the transport prone position. Next, the boom is pin-attached to the top end of the still-prone tower. While the tower raises hydraulically, sliding on the rails of its wheeled carrier to the center of its base, the connection between the tower and boom is aligned. After the tower is fully vertical, the boom is locked into position. Crew members access the tower/boom connection platform via aerial lift.

The all-terrain crane assisting the erection then lifts the four spreaders – connected to the outriggers by collapsible folding linked pendants – to the tower/boom connection. The erection crew attaches the spreaders to the tower/boom connection and once that is complete, the tower begins to extend, reaching full height in 20 minutes, pendants fully extended.

Once operational, the crane can be remotely operated from a rolling podium-like work station that connects by cable to any outrigger head, allowing flexible ground-level visibility.

Manitowoc says the outrigger/spreader combination, connected by the pendants, gives the GTK its lifting ability and eliminates the need for counterweights, which allowed the company to cut down on the number of trucks it takes to haul the crane. The configuration serves as the crane’s central ballast.

Jobsite mobility
Another advantage over alternatives is the GTK’s flexible mobility once on the jobsite. Manitowoc says it can be moved in three ways:

  • Repositioning: The GTK moves with the tower retracted and the boom extended. The ground supports retract and the lowerworks lift hydraulically, allowing movement.
  • Moving to a new erection site: The tower retracts and the spreaders are dismantled. The tower then returns to its horizontal transport position and the first boom section extends out to 88 percent to achieve optimum center of gravity. Releasing the outriggers and hydraulically hoisting the lowerworks gives sufficient ground clearance to move on.
  • Moving on unstable ground or in a congested jobsite: The tower retracts and the spreaders are dismantled. Removing the outriggers reduces the transport width to 9.8 feet and significantly decreases the weight.

The time factor
Preikschas says the primary challenge in the design process was “time itself. During product development there’s a risk that the key application we designed this for – the growing wind power business – would change,” he says. “With the GTK, we’re dealing with a new concept that is relatively easy to adapt and with applications and requirements that show no signs of changing for the foreseeable future.”

According to Preikschas, the GTK offers two key things to the lifting industry. “First, on jobs where there are already lifting solutions available, it will offer a significant reduction in operating costs. For example, today’s wind farm installation is currently handled by large crawler cranes and all-terrain cranes. Second, with its unique lifting arrangement and dimensions, the GTK is creating its own jobs. With its small footprint, speed of erection, ease of travel and strong lift chart at height, customers are now planning work around its capabilities.” Other applications Manitowoc sees for the crane include erecting cell phone towers, placing air conditioning units on high-rise buildings and maintenance and construction work in power plants or refineries.

Manitowoc reports the GTK has realized “double-digit sales that have surpassed even our expectations.” The company delivered its first model of the GTK, which is being built at its factory in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, last month.

And will there be additional cranes in the GTK lineup? While nothing yet is planned in detail, Preikschas says, “bearing in mind this crane is based on the superstructure from a Grove GMK7450 that can lift more than 300 tons, anything is possible.”

Why I chose this product
Although it officially debuted at Bauma this past April, Manitowoc took an almost unheard of step and unveiled pictures of the GTK 1100 a full seven months before the trade show. But you can’t blame them for trumping themselves. While some in the crane industry argue there were predecessors to the GTK 1100 concept, Manitowoc’s taken it to a whole new level.

Although they designed it specifically for one application – the height and weight requirements of installing wind turbines – the company is quick to point out it’s more than just a niche product. The GTK 1100 creates a new category of crane, while building on the foundation of the firm’s three crane brands.
-Marcia Gruver

Leading Edge
The Multi-Ripper Tooth
What a difference a few degrees make

You got a problem?

Lee Horton would love to hear about it. But he’s no troublemaker. Horton’s mission in life is to find problems in the world of heavy equipment operation and design solutions for them.

An engineer from Purdue with an MBA, Horton started his career with International Harvester and worked with Komatsu, Dresser, Wain-Roy and Woods Equipment before starting his own company, Leading Edge Attachments, in 2001.

“We look for problems we can solve,” Horton says. “Every month or two we make a trip to see a contractor who either has a problem or an idea on how to solve a problem. The whole idea of the company is to come up with high quality, productive products that will not break and that we can patent. And we want something that will at least double the contractor’s productivity or better.”

The latest of the company’s innovative designs, the Multi-Ripper Tooth, owes its pedigree to two earlier product designs, the Multi-Ripper and Multi-Ripper Bucket. These employ what the company calls “SHARC” technology or shanks on an arc-ripping teeth for excavator buckets that are staggered so that only one tooth at a time – and the full power and weight of the machine – hits the smallest possible surface area.

Horton came up with the Multi-Ripper designs in response to contractors in Arizona who were frustrated in their inability to dig through rock effectively. Sales of the Multi-Ripper and the Multi-Ripper Bucket took off immediately. The only problem was the designs chewed up teeth faster than they’d like, due to the extremely high forces generated by the Multi-Rippers.

“We had been using twin tigers, because with two points they last longer,” Horton says. “Single point teeth were great for ripping but they wore out fast. With twins you get better wear and your outside teeth carve out clearance for the bucket in the trench, but you’re still dividing your breakout force between two points.”

The eureka moment came, Horton says, when they realized they could apply the same shanks on an arc principles to the tooth itself.

“We made a drawing of a tooth with three points similar to the Multi-Ripper, but they were so close together it wasn’t practical,” Horton says. “So we took a twin tiger style tooth and rotated one point down and raked it back to look like a two finger Multi-Ripper.”

So, once you arm a Multi-Ripper bucket with Multi-Ripper teeth you apply the full force onto a single steel point six times in rapid-fire succession. Rock fractures almost as if it’s being hit with a hydraulic hammer. And you get the penetration of a single point tiger with the trench side cutting capabilities of a twin tiger.

“We didn’t do any lab tests or side-by-side comparisons,” Horton says. “The majority of feedback we get is from contractors. That’s how we develop the product. We give prototypes to contractors to see what they think. We sent the teeth out to people who had Multi-Ripper Buckets and they loved them.”

One of the challenges in designing a rock-busting tooth like the Multi-Ripper was finding an adapter that could handle the stress. During the development of this tooth, the company abandoned J-style adapters, which have a pin through a hole in the middle. “Anytime you have a hole you triple the stress concentration factors,” Horton says. “And even though these are designed so you shouldn’t be stressing the pin, buckets can twist and different things happen. The bottom line was some of the adapters would break.”

Leading Edge found the adapter solution with MTG and Esco, two companies that offer specialized adaptors and teeth without side holes. Leading Edge will offer the Multi-Ripper product line with the MTG KingMet version of the Multi-Ripper Tooth early next near on certain models, but in the meantime, the Cat-style J460 model can be used to improve ripping on conventional excavator buckets, other designs of rock ripping buckets, or existing older models of the Multi-Ripper products.

Why I chose this product
Anybody who’s ever tried to rip cut with a cross cut saw, or vice versa, knows that angles and cutting geometry matter. It doesn’t matter how big your arm or your excavator is, if the cutting or digging tool isn’t shaped appropriate to the material, you’ll have to work much harder and most of that extra force will be wasted. At best you’ll burn more fuel than necessary. At worst you’ll be stressing your bucket and boom linkage and adding unnecessary shock and wear to your engine and hydraulic systems.

The Multi-Ripper tooth is a great example of how the small details, the angle and design of a tooth, can have a big impact on productivity and reduce the wear and tear on the host machine in the most difficult applications. Most of the large-scale design questions concerning earthmoving equipment have all been settled. What the Multi-Ripper tooth proves is there is still plenty of innovation to be found by looking closely at the small details.
-Tom Jackson