The demand for intelligent excavators has taken root to say the least and competition amongst top manufacturers intensifies.
The heavyweight manufacturers of heavy machines for the construction industry have begun to offer their latest excavators that have been fitted with the most advanced electronic technologies that are out there. These technologies that have been incorporated into their latest excavators transform these machines into sophisticated machines that are capable of delivering intelligent performance. These machines have reached the pinnacle of the fossil fuel heavy machines era as manufacturers look towards electrifying their vehicles quoted Erik Larson a venture capitalist. Mr Larson who has been observing the heavy machine industry for nearly three decades indicated that although key manufacturers are looking at electric powered heavy machines, the electric versions will still sport the new hydraulic systems, capacity and capability of the fossil fuel powered machines which means that none of what has been incorporated will go to waste or be decommissioned systems, Each of the major manufacturers starting from Caterpillar, Komatsu, Kobelco all the way to Hyundai and Volvo CE have something new and innovative to add to the palate that make these machine better than ever before.
Caterpillar for instance recently unveiled the sophisticated 335 high-performance excavator which saves up to 25 % fuel and performs 45 % better than its predecessor. The machine also commands a much lower maintenance cost (up to 20 % lower), all of this is attributed to the intelligent component that has been integrated into the machine. The compact radius design excavator’s enhanced technology is a first for the 35 ton category. Powered by the Cat C7 engine which coughs up 204kW on demand all the while meeting Tier 4 emissions standards, the engine allows the machine to operate under 3 modes (Power, Smart and Eco), each mode with its own perks. This new model is also capable of handling cold starts at -18°C and operates well at 4,600m above sea level. Other noteworthy features of this new excavator include the enhanced stick and bucket sizes which adds 15% greater digging force and increased Hydraulic power by 20%. The intelligent or ‘smart’ element of this machine includes the engine being able to automatically match engine speed with hydraulic power demand which reduces fuel use by 10% whilst keeping productivity levels unchanged. Other ‘smart elements’ that have been incorporated into these latest excavators include CAT Payload, CAT Lift Assist systems, Cat Grade with 2D (3 D) and Vision-Link.
As Komatsu, Kobelco and other manufacturers focus on the mini excavators segment as they answer demand for mini excavator for hire, Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE) unveiled their most competitive machine aimed at the 22 ton excavator segment the HX210AL and the HX220AL. Both these machines are capable of coughing up 129kW of power although the HX220AL uses a Cummins B6.7 6-cylinder engine (880 torque) and have been designed to suit the excavator for rent market by companies such as ScoopHire. Both are Stage V-compliant attributed to the integrated exhaust after treatment system which greatly reduces emission. The smart features of these machines include the state of the art Electronic Pump Flow Control; the Advanced around View Monitoring system (Optional feature) and the Intelligent Moving Object Detection which alerts the operator when anybody or anything is 5 meters from the machine.
Among the more unique highlights of the latest excavator by Hyundai are the improved operator controls which include the optional machine guidance/machine control element that automatically controls attachments to assist the driver with tasks such as positioning the bucket tip for grading work with either the bucket tip or its face. Bothe these machines are fitted with the Hi-Mate remote management system that allows operators to work remotely. The ECD or Engine Connected Diagnostics is the latest by Hyundai that assists After Sales technicians with reports on the machine’s overall engine performance which is essential for improving fleet management.
Volvo Construction Equipment has also moved into the ‘smart excavator’ market with a 35tonne excavator class. Versatility and efficiency is the selling point of Volvo’s EC300E and EC380E excavators. Among the most notable physical features of these machines include their low height (below 4 m) making transporting these machines easy as no dismantling is required. Both machines are capable of a wide range of tasks and operators may choose functions based on tasks. The level of control offered to operators to control boom/swing and travel speed priority not to mention attachments is unrivaled. Volvo CE has incorporated their all new “boom and arm bounce reduction technology” which significantly reduces shocks. The Co-Pilot intelligent system is also present in these machines allowing operators to manage the excavator with nothing more than the joystick rollers. Other inclusions found in these machines that allow them to be classified as smart excavators include Dig Assist apps (requires the Volvo Co-Pilot tablet). With the tablet a range of other smart features may be unlocked such as In-Field Design, On-Board Weighing and the use of an assortment of 3D software packages. The Volvo Active Control which is standard inclusions automates any movement that involves the boom or the bucket. With this intelligent tool, operators are able to set a variety of conditions such as swing fence, height and depth limit in order to be able to stay well clear of obstacles around the excavator.
The entire dynamics of the excavator market is rapidly transforming and over the next few years the race for the best and most powerful electric powered excavator will pave the way towards new benchmarks for excavators.