Machine Matters

Big thing happening with excavators

Manufacturers are not only updating 30- to 40-metric-ton crawler excavators, but also introducing new configurations to market.

By Mike Anderson

As North American earthmoving and underground contractors anticipate kicking the tracks of updated 30- to 40-metric-ton crawler excavator models at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas come March, some may not have to wait that long … neither to see nor buy.

JCB designed the JS360 undercarriage to work in tough conditions, giving the boom and dipper a deeper section profile to add strength and durability.JCB designed the JS360 undercarriage to work in tough conditions, giving the boom and dipper a deeper section profile to add strength and durability.

Among the first of the Caterpillar machines to meet EPA Tier 4 Interim emissions standards, the 336E will be available in the United States in January, representing the latest evolution of the popular 330 excavator. Introduced in 2006, the 330D L changed to the 336D L in 2008 to reflect its true weight, about 36 metric tons. The 336E, announced at the Bauma show in Germany this past April, will feature a 317-horsepower Cat C9 engine delivering 18-percent more power than its D-Series predecessor, resulting in faster digging and lifting performance, says Caterpillar. Increased hydraulic pressure in the heavy-lift system, coupled with machine stability features, will suit the 336E to pipe-handling applications. A strengthened boom, digging arm and boom-foot mount accommodate the increased lift capacity; a similarly beefed-up swing frame supports the redesigned ROPS. Additionally, boom and arm options allow the 336E to be configured for mass excavation and breaker applications. Although some units will be available here in the fourth quarter, Cat is withholding full product details prior to its North American launch next year.

Caterpillar excavators are available with the company’s programmable Tool Control System. Capable of running one- or two-way tools and one-or two-pump tools, the system comes either as a stand-alone configuration or with a third pump and medium-pressure circuit for the use of rotating tools such as shears, multi-processors and grapples. Up to 10 different tool settings can be programmed in advance and then selected via a monitor by the operator, eliminating the need to calibrate hydraulics each time he changes work tools.


Updates coming

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Many other leading crawler excavator brands among the 13 competing in the 30- to 40-metric-ton space will be updating their product lines at CONEXPO, including Liebherr. The company currently offers the R 934 C and R 944 C models, at 31.9 and 39.3 metric tons respectively. “The R 934 in particular will have new features,” reports Tim Doucette, marketing and public relations manager, “and will be part of a feature showing differing versions of that size machine at the show.”

Other equipment manufacturers competing for business in this space have made recent updates to their product lines.

While incorporating the “short swing” design of the ECR Series for maneuverability, Volvo says the ECR305C L retains the structural design of its conventional crawler excavator models for stability and weight distribution.While incorporating the “short swing” design of the ECR Series for maneuverability, Volvo says the ECR305C L retains the structural design of its conventional crawler excavator models for stability and weight distribution.

The updating of the Hyundai excavator family from the 7A Series continued with this January’s rollout of the R380LC-9 crawler, which follows the 9 Series trend of additional operating weight. Equipped with 36-inch shoes, the R380LC-9 weighs 39.55 metric tons, up from the comparatively-configured 7A Series model’s 37.42 metric tons. Standard features added include a heated air ride suspension seat, hands-free cell phone module, transparent skylight, extra top and front sunshades, extra light package and the HI-Mate GPS-based remote management system with free service for three years. Managing the hydraulics and 296-horsepower Cummins QSC engine, a new Computer Aided Power Optimization (CAPO) system offers customizable machine operation through the choice of power mode, work mode and user mode.

The newest construction equipment introduction to North America by recent market arrival LiuGong is also the company’s largest excavator now available here. Powered by a 280-horsepower Cummins engine, the 37-metric-ton 936LC III offers a digging depth of 24 feet 1 inch, dump height of 24 feet 4 inches and bucket digging force of 48,559 pounds. Configured with a traditional long carriage, the 936LC III excavator follows the U.S. arrival of such pieces as wheel loaders, skid steers and smaller excavators by the China-based LiuGong, which operates a North American sales office in Katy, Texas.

Komatsu offers two versions of its recently updated 35-metric-ton-class crawler excavator, both available with optional Super Long Front configurations. The PC350LC-8, with a base operating weight of 77,362 pounds, evolves into the heavy-duty PC350HD-8 version by incorporating the undercarriage of the PC450LC-8. This combination provides the 39-metric-ton-plus PC350HD-8 with increased lift capacity and over-side stability, says Doug Morris, Komatsu America product manager, excavators. “Each machine has a standard heavy-duty boom assembly with thick, high-tensile-strength steel and large one-piece castings that are used in high stress areas for added reliability.” Komatsu Dash-8 excavators feature a 7-inch LCD color monitor panel, for operator controls and machine diagnostics; a standard rearview camera, along with an optional second camera for right-side viewing; and a closed-center load-sensing hydraulic system providing “quick response to the operator’s power demands.

The new models come with the newest-generation Komtrax satellite-based remote monitoring and management system. Komtrax provides such machine data as fuel consumption, working/idle hours, attachment usage hours, travel hours and machine load; location and asset management via GPS location maps, out-of-area alerts, and engine, night and calendar locks; maintenance management via service meter reading, caution/abnormality codes and replacement notifications; and simple access to information for owners and managers via a secure website, e-mail and text alerts, and monthly fleet summary reports.


Sizing up

Filling a gap in the JS excavator product line at the larger end of the 30- to 40-metric-ton class, JCB introduced the JS360 model, available in base, mass excavation (ME), long reach (LR) and extra duty (XD) configurations. The undercarriage of the 82,829-pound JS360 was designed around 40-metric-ton running gear to both handle work in tough conditions and enhance tractive effort.

With its tail extending “only slightly” beyond the width of the tracks, the 328D LCR is Caterpillar’s largest compact radius crawler excavator. The machine competes in the 30- to 40-metric ton space, a class once way beyond the scope of short-swing escavators.With its tail extending “only slightly” beyond the width of the tracks, the 328D LCR is Caterpillar’s largest compact radius crawler excavator. The machine competes in the 30- to 40-metric ton space, a class once way beyond the scope of short-swing escavators.

Due to its shorter boom, the JS360ME version has increased its lifting capacities and breakout forces by 16 percent from the standard model, says JCB. The JS360LR has a 72-foot reach for canal/ditch maintenance and gravel extraction. The JS360XD, built to dig in the toughest of conditions, has a reinforced dipper and bucket linkage, heavy-duty guards, and extra protection for the upper structure. Throughout its full range of JS Auto excavators, JCB has added the option of proportional auxiliary controls – ergonomically located on the servo joysticks – allowing the operator to work more attachments.

Electronic optimization of the hydraulic system to the new-generation Doosan engine highlighted the early 2009 introduction of Doosan’s 35.2-metric-ton DX350LC crawler excavator. The e-POS electronic power optimizing system provides fuel consumption control, automatic engine deceleration, hydraulic flow rate control and a self-diagnosis function. Generating 271 horsepower, the turbocharged Doosan DL08 water-cooled diesel engine features a common rail design with direct fuel injection and electronic control, and four valves per cylinder. With extended boom pivot greasing and engine oil change intervals, Doosan also offers in this size class the 66,580-pound DX300LC model, also available in log loader and super long reach versions.

As part of the Link-Belt X2 Series of excavators from LBX, the new 35.9-metric-ton 350 X2 model boasts two-speed lifting and arm open/close functions that work in cooperation with hydraulic system regeneration to provide quicker cycle times in dig, lift and swing applications. A 271-net-horsepower Isuzu AH-6HK1XYSS engine, equipped with common rail fuel injection and exhaust gas recirculation technology, provides the 350 X2 with “significant increases” in fuel efficiency over competitive models, says LBX.


Updates coming soon?

John Deere’s 35.37-metric-ton 350D LC features the Powerwise III management system, which it says balances engine and hydraulic performance.

Case’s 35-metric-ton CX350B excavator uses regenerative hydraulics on the boom and arm, as well as the bucket curl, to speed up cycle times.Case’s 35-metric-ton CX350B excavator uses regenerative hydraulics on the boom and arm, as well as the bucket curl, to speed up cycle times.

“Generous hydraulic flow, supported by precise metering capability, provides a combination of powerful digging force, low-effort control and multifunction operation,” says Mark Wall, Deere product marketing manager for excavators. Powered by a 271-horsepower John Deere engine, the 350D LC has a rigid, reinforced D-channel mainframe and three welded bulkhead plates within the boom and arm for strength. A wide expanse of glass, narrow cab posts and additional mirrors provide the operator with nearly unobstructed all-around visibility; an intuitive, multi-language, LCD monitor displays operating, diagnostic and maintenance data.

Marketed in North America under the umbrella of John Deere, Hitachi correspondingly offers the ZX350LC-3 model, introduced in 2006 as one of the initial seven Zaxis-3 Series excavators. Improvements included undercarriage and upper structure strengthening. NH bushings, using Hitachi’s molybdenum-based lubricant, are used at the boom-arm joint and arm-cylinder mounting area; tungsten-carbide thermal spraying hardens the arm-to-bucket joint. The HIOS III hydraulic system matches the 271-horsepower Isuzu engine’s torque curve for multifunction operations. From the seat, the ZX350LC-3’s operator can make simple oil-flow adjustments for attachments, monitor 32 operation factors and track maintenance for 14 items. Short-throw, low-effort levers provide fingertip control. The 35.05-metric-ton excavator comes standard with three years of Hitachi’s ZXLink telematic remote-monitoring system.

Arriving in mid-2008 as a member of Case’s CX B Series of crawler excavators, the CX350B has an operating weight of 35.86 metric tons, bucket digging force of 51,436 pounds and maximum dig depth of 24 feet 1 inch. Use of regenerative hydraulics on the boom and arm, as well as on bucket curl, results in faster cycle times in dig and load applications, says Case. In addition, 10 auxiliary hydraulic flow patterns allow the operator to quickly adapt the 271-horsepower machine to different attachments. For additional operational ease, a memorized operator adjustment will automatically adjust to the last settings saved. Inside the isolation-mounted cab, noise levels are lowered and vibrations reduced due to reinforced tubular structures. Narrower, reinforced posts on the corners of the cab allow for more glass and a broader view to the worksite; the right-hand window is designed to provide an unobstructed view to the trench. A see-through skylight is optional.

Introduced in 2007 and 2006 respectively, the 30.3-metric-ton SK295LC and 36.1-metric-ton SK350LC excavators provide a Kobelco model option in the lower to middle part of the 30- to 40-metric-ton class. The models offer power boost with no time limit, and are designed to work various attachments including hammers, compactors, shears and augers, changeable on the fly. The operator’s use of one- and two-way auxiliary hydraulics is enhanced by in-cab pressure and flow settings, with memory capabilities available.


Short swinger

What was once considered an industry novelty, and then a mainstay of compact or mid-sized machines only, has emerged in the 30- to 40-metric-ton crawler excavator market.

With the introduction of the 74,230-pound ECR305C L model, Volvo is … well … squeezing its expanding excavator product line into rarified space, by offering a short-swing-radius machine in the 30-metric-ton-plus market. (Caterpillar offers the slightly-lighter 328D LCR in the same class.)

The third and largest model in Volvo’s ECR range of full-sized compact radius excavators, the ECR305C L offers both stablility and maneuverability. It incorporates the structural design of the conventional EC290C L and EC330C L models, located just below and above it respectively in terms of operating weight; and the machine body swings only fractionally outside its track width, as it does with the smaller short-swing ECR145C and ECR235C models. The ECR305C L is claimed to perform as well as conventional 30-metric-ton excavators within the envelope of a single road lane. A new hydraulic system features full electro-hydraulic control. A rear-view camera is available as an option.

Volvo engines in C-Series excavators feature Volvo Advanced Combustion Technology (V-ACT) for “high torque at low revs, leading to ultra-efficient fuel consumption,” says the company. All excavators have Volvo Care Cabs with added space, increased operator visibility and reduced whole body vibration.

The long and short of the 30- to 40-metric-ton crawler excavator market is that the two dozen odd models now available will undoubtedly expand as a group, but in some cases slim down individually. EW