Though the basic technology of scooping up tons of recyclables hasn’t changed, the wheel loaders that lift and move those buckets are making news with advanced engineering features. In fact, whether it’s fuel efficiency, or drivetrains, or operational controls, wheel loaders are leading the heavy-vehicle industry in major advancements. And by major, we mean sophisticated electronics, stronger hydraulics, redesigned drivetrains, and even a radically new diesel electric hybrid-drive system.
Let’s start with a look at the latest developments from Doosan Corp., West Fargo, ND, where engineers have focused on increasing performance and reliability, while meeting Tier 4 emissions requirements. In January 2013, Doosan launched an upgraded interim iTier 4-compliant DL250-3 wheel loader. Inside the cab, a multifunction display panel on a centralized monitor provides comprehensive machine system information for the operator. The panel allows operators to set the new automatically reversing cooling fan on preset time intervals, or to manually reverse the fan. “We completely revamped the monitor,” says Shane Reardon, wheel loader specialist at Doosan, “and along with controlling the fan’s reversing times, there’s critical information such as pressures and temperatures.”
Doosan’s wheel loaders gain efficiency with three choices of operating modes. “There’s Eco, which degrades the engine for doing applications where you don’t need all that horsepower, so you get better fuel efficiency,” explains Reardon. “Then there’s Normal mode, which is for your middle-of-the-road situations, and next we have Power mode for heavy-duty cycles where you need full use of the engine.”
The three working modes allow optimum fuel consumption for different applications, and operators can use the Power-Up function to manually adjust to the next highest working mode by applying a full stroke of the accelerator pedal. The display monitor includes an Eco bar to provide information about fuel consumption in relation to machine performance in real-time, allowing the operator to select the driving mode for the best fuel efficiency. “The operator can look at the Ecobar and if it’s in the green zone they’re getting the best fuel efficiency,” says Reardon. “But if it starts moving into the amber or red zones, they’re taxing the machine and the fuel efficiency is going down. So operators can change their methods, because now they have feedback.”
Additional fuel savings result from a new auto-idle feature that reduces fuel consumption and lowers noise by slowing the working idle of the engine from 950 rpm to a standby idle setting of 750 rpm when the machine is inactive for a short period of time. Also, Doosan’s line of new generation wheel loaders are equipped with load sensing controlled, variable hydraulic piston pumps. With load sensing, the hydraulic pumps receive a signal from the MCV (main control valve) informing how much oil is needed. This helps to save on engine performance. “The system senses the load requirements and produces the power it needs,” says Reardon.
Under the hood, Doosan increased the engine’s power from 162 horsepower to 172 horsepower, and when it comes to heavy scrap-metal handling, more power is an asset, according to Rick Hutchins, an equipment and facilities manager for Schupan Industrial Recycling Services in Kalamazoo, MI. “When we push the bins up, we need power, because as you push them the resistance comes from the bottom up, and the material wants to push back, so it’s tough when a wheel loader is doing that almost all day long.” Schupan bought its Doosan DL250 about three years ago, and even in the tough environment of a scrap metal yard, the product’s performance has motivated company the company to double down on another wheel loader to meet its expansion plans.
“In our business, what a manufacturer would call damage is just part of operations to us,” says Hutchins. “So we have to accept that because we are handling 20-foot-long pieces of metal, and things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. We asked for a guaranteed cost per hour and Doosan came back with good numbers on the machine, and it’s done that. So we’re getting ready to order another DL250 when Schupan expands from two shifts to three.”
The expansion at Schupan is something of a trend for the recycling facilities industry. According to a market report from IBIS World, Recycling Facilities in the US industry, overall recycled commodities and finished goods sales have performed well from 2008 to 2013, with revenue expanding at an estimated average annual rate of 3.3%, achieving a total industry value of $5.9 billion in 2013.
Analysts expect even better growth in the future as consumer demand for products made with recycled goods grows. Also, higher levels of government regulation will benefit the industry by pushing potential downstream customers to use recycled goods in manufacturing processes. The positive market outlook reflects well on the decision of Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) to open a wheel loader production facility in the US.
In March of 2013, Volvo CE launched a $110 million expansion program at its Shippensburg, PA, facility. In addition to the inauguration of the location as the company’s headquarters for the Americas, the occasion also celebrated the beginning of Volvo CE wheel loader manufacturing in the US.
At the launch, Volvo displayed its L60G model wheel loader. The L60G is part of a line that includes the 13 to 17-ton class L70G and L90G. The units feature Torque Parallel (TP) linkage. Engine options run from 161 and 173-horsepower Volvo 6-liter, 6-cylinder turbocharged V-ACT off-highway diesel engines that meet Tier 4i emissions. According to George Fink, director of national accounts at Volvo CE, the company’s Load Sensing System plays a significant role in performance efficiency.
“The Volvo engine reaches maximum torque at 1,500 rpm and in combination with that we have load sensing hydraulics on the boom and bucket,” explains Fink. “At 1,500 rpm you have already reached maximum pressure and maximum flow on the pumps so anything over that just spins the tires and wears them out. Volvos have an echo pedal on the machine, and the operator can feel resistance on his foot when he reaches approximately 75% throw on a throttle. It saves a lot of fuel and it saves on the solid tires, and by combining the 1,500 rpm maximum limit with the load sensing technology, we’ve matched the pump’s flow and pressure to that torque peak.”
Fire safety equipment is another key feature, and Volvo has engineered a double layer of security with a master cutoff switch in the back of the machine plus another inside the cab. “If the operator senses a problem or sees smoke, they can hit this red button in the cab and it starts the fire suppression system and shuts off the electricity to the entire machine,” says Fink. “Volvo produces, designs, and installs the fire suppression system at the factory as we build the machine, with stainless-steel tubes and no hoses where we don’t have to. It’s mounted perfectly to our machines, with a connection to our DC system rather than slapped on the battery.”
Malfunctions can be monitored remotely with Volvo’s CareTrack telematics system. “It’s our satellite tracking system,” says Fink, “It has information such as electronics that monitor the operator and the status of the machine. Then there’s service so you can know when to change oil, rotate tires, or switch the cutting edge on a bucket. We also have our Matris feature, which collects data that can be downloaded into a computer, and what you learn is pretty important because you can see how the operator is running the machine and if it’s overheating or exceeding speed or temperature levels. So if a maintenance manager is sitting in Ohio, they can look at the machine in Pennsylvania anytime and get the data and use it to train the operators to operate the machine at maximum efficiency. The technology is in the machine standard and we’re currently offering a three-year free subscription for customers.”
The growth of scrap metal and material recycling facilities has inspired a new line of specially designed wheel loaders from Case Construction Equipment, Racine, WI. In April 2013, Case Construction Equipment announced its 621F and 721F wheel loader Waste Handling models. They feature factory-installed protective guards in 16 key coverage areas, a mid-mounted cooling module, and advanced air filtration components for working in concentrated dust and debris-filled environments, plus, heavy-duty axles that support solid tires. “Case came up with a freewheeling front axle instead of a limited slip differential,” notes Gail Kuehnert, a consultant for heavy equipment sales at RPM Machinery, Indianapolis, IN. “That saves wear and tear on the front axle at hard surface locations. Also, the solid rubber tires need good access so the open front axle design helps.”
The protective guarding includes thick metal-wrapped hydraulic hoses with heavy-gauge steel lift cylinder tube guards, a windshield windscreen guard, bolt-on front and rear frame guards, front axle covers, front and rear frame articulation joint guards, light guards, transmission guard, and side cover and fuel tank guard. Material ejectors ensure that the material being moved doesn’t compromise the cylinder pockets.
One of RPM’s customers recently bought a new Case 721F for its material reclamation facility, and Kuehnert notes that the machine’s design makes it ideal for harsh environments. “Of course it comes with all the heavy guarding around the undercarriage and transmission and other parts,” says Kuehnert. “They’re working with heavy debris that’s primarily paper products, and they don’t want that interfering with any of the components in the drivetrain. And it has a heavy-duty cooling package because there’s lot of dust and particulates in the air, and they want the cooling system operating optimally.”
The Case Cooling Cube on the 621F and 721F Waste Handlers features wider fin spacing to maintain cooling capability by allowing larger particulate debris to pass through the coolers. The cooling module cover is slanted to reduce material buildup and aid in self-cleaning. “It was designed for that type of application,” says Kuehnert, “and it’s more protected from the dust and gives cleaner air to cool the engine rather having it in the back where it can pick up a lot of dust and debris.” A programmable auto-reversing fan automatically purges the screens and coolers for less manual cleaning, which increases operating times. Additionally, a Sy-Clone ejective air precleaner ensures the capture of those larger particles prior to handling by the primary air filter, which results in fewer filter changes.
As with its entire F Series fleet, Case chose selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology for the 621F and 721F Waste Handlers to meet Tier 4 Interim emissions standards. Inside the cab, an advanced instrument cluster (AIC) offers four operating modes and a tri-mode power feature to maximize fuel economy by allowing the operator to select engine throttle and rpm requirements based upon the task. In addition, Auto Idle, a fuel-saving feature, allows for multiple idle rates, reducing fuel consumption while operators are in between tasks. Multiple data screens and menu patterns in the AIC allow operators and service technicians full visibility and control of basic job functions, such as startup gear selection and job-site fuel efficiency, as well as protective controls including Automatic Machine Protection, which recognizes critical problems with the hydraulics, engine, or transmission and shuts down the engine, helping to eliminate repairs.
The Case F Series Waste Handlers also offer optional joystick steering, a standard rear-view camera, floor-to-ceiling windows and improved lighting system. “The joystick is used in an application where you’re strictly doing a lot of loading and back-and-forth and short cycle applications,” says Kuehnert. “It’s less fatiguing for the operator.”
Higher productivity in scooping up materials can also be less fatiguing for an operator, so the latest bucket designs from Caterpillar should be a welcome addition to recycling facilities. In May 2013, Cat introduced two new wheel-loader bucket designs-the dozing bucket and the load-and-carry bucket-for solid waste handling in transfer stations and recycling centers. The buckets are specifically designed to enhance the productivity of Cat small and medium wheel loaders in waste applications.
The buckets range from 6.0 to 14.0 cubic yards, and the two distinct types of waste buckets give let fleet managers choose the optimum choice for their facility layout and the specific tasks. Both types of buckets can be equipped with bolt-on cutting edges or rubber edges. By combining the buckets with Cat’s new waste handlers, operators can take advantage of lower operating costs with improved fuel efficiency, reduced tire wear, and increased cutting edge life.
The Cat 924K, 930K and 938K waste handler models feature a Stage IIIB-compliant Cat 6.6 ACERT engine designed to run at a 25% slower max engine speed resulting in substantial fuel savings. A smooth, stepless, electronically controlled hydrostatic drivetrain provides adjustable power to the ground, and the ability to match wheel torque to underfoot condition through a Rimpull Control feature. This operator selected setting reduces wheel slip and increases tire life. A two-stage, one-touch automatic engine speed control reduces engine speed if no operation is performed. Cutting edge wear is reduced through an Electro-Hydraulic Snubbing feature, allowing operators to smoothly return their bucket to within 25 mm of the floor, to hover above the surface and not scrub on each approach to the pile. Cat’s remote monitoring feature, Product Link, monitors critical information, event and diagnostic codes, and general statistics.
Easy access to general statistics for operators is the focus of wheel loader upgrades from Komatsu America Corp., of Rolling Meadows, IL. In April 2013, Komatsu introduced the WA270-7 wheel loader, powered by a 149-horsepower Komatsu SAA6D107E-2 engine, which is EPA Tier 4 Interim and EU Stage 3B emission certified, yet fuel consumption has decreased by up to 10%, compared to the WA250-6. New features include enhanced capabilities and information can be displayed in 25 languages for global support. By using the monitor, operators can easily modify settings for items such as the new Auto Idle Shutdown or the auto-reversing fan. Operators can also check operational records, such as working hours, fuel consumption, monitor the KDPF soot load, or check maintenance intervals. Additionally, the monitor offers the operator the option of using the ECO Guidance function, which will provide operational tips to reduce fuel consumption.
The WA270-7 is equipped with the latest Komtrax technology, which is fully integrated with Komatsu’s Tier 4 technology. Komtrax sends such data as operating hours, fuel consumption, location, cautions and maintenance alerts information to a secure website utilizing wireless technology. The Komtrax fleet monitoring system increases machine availability, reduces the risk of machine theft, allows for remote diagnosis by the distributor, and provides a wealth of other information to help drive business efficiency and productivity.
The WA270-7 also features Komatsu SmartLoader Logic, which provides optimal engine torque for the job required. Komatsu SmartLoader Logic helps save fuel by automatically decreasing engine torque when the loader isn’t working as hard, such as when it is driving with an empty bucket. The Komatsu hydrostatic (HST) drivetrain features increased pump capacity for higher efficiency and responsiveness. The dynamic-braking effect of the HST drivetrain slows down the machine when the accelerator is released. Brake wear is practically eliminated, while control is enhanced working in tight places.
A hydrostatic drive train system is a key feature for wheel loaders from the Liebherr Group, Saline, MI. Liebherr recently introduced its IIIB generation of large wheel loaders, including the L 550 and L 556 models. Both have redesigned engine compartments with the diesel engine installed transversely for a more compact layout, with all the principal maintenance points accessible from ground level. The power output of the L 576 and L 580 models has also been increased.
For the drivetrain, Liebherr continues to improve on its hydrostatic travel gear. In combination with the Liebherr Power Efficiency (LPE) electronic mapped-characteristic control system, the machine’s software receives the electronic accelerator-pedal position signal, and computes the most effective way of carrying out the driver’s instructions. The LPE system optimizes the interaction of the drive components and reduces the amount of fuel needed to match the same performance levels. Tire and brake wear are also reduced.
Cleaner engines and smarter controls are featured on new wheel loader models from Terex Corp., Southaven, MS. In April 2013, Terex introduced its Tier 4i/ EU Stage IIIB compliant engines. The new engines boost power by about 16%, compared to their predecessors. Other updates include the Terex Smart Control system, featuring operator productivity tools, and operator and real-time data monitoring.
The TL120 wheel loader has a new narrower front end for clearer views of attachments and loading. A new temperature-controlled, hydraulically operated fan runs only when required, reducing noise while increasing the life of the cooling system. A reverse function is available for machines working in dusty environments.
So far, we’ve seen a variety of technology improvements that provide material reclamation facilities with many choices for the power and performance needed to get the job done. But now it’s time to take a look at a radical approach that may well signal the direction of future drivetrain designs for heavy equipment. We’re talking about the new 644K Hybrid Wheel Loader from John Deere in Moline, IL. Just released in February 2013, the 644K Hybrid utilizes two sources of energy: diesel and electric. Also, the hybrid loader captures regenerated energy as it’s being created and uses it to power the machine.
The 644K Hybrid is equipped with a John Deere PowerTech engine that runs at an operator-selected constant speed from 900 to 1,800 rpm. The engine’s constant operating speed maintains continuous hydraulic flow at all times, and makes loading and maneuvering an easier task, according to John Niswender, wheel-drive loader/waste handler product consultant for Deere Constructions and Forestry. “Many of the customers have been impressed because, typically, as an operator is loading he has to manage his braking and his rpms to sustain his hydraulic pressures and then put that together with controlling the bucket and boom. But with the 644K hybrid, it can be set to 1,800 rpm, and you can control your travel speed without having to control the throttle with the accelerator, and you don’t have to manage the throttle for your hydraulic pumps because they are always maintained.”
The 644K Hybrid can reduce fuel consumption up to 25%, and noise is also reduced because of the engine’s constant speed. “Inside the cab we are 3 decibels less and outside noise much less,” says Niswender. “So if you’re working in a residential area, residents won’t have the same issues they would have with the old equipment. And if you have another piece of equipment operating, you can hardly tell if the hybrid is actually running because it’s so quiet.”
The innovative diesel-electric approach has allowed Deere’s engineers to design a simplified, PowerShift, countershaft-style transmission that maintains smooth shifting during such tasks as stockpiling, truck loading, or ramp climbing. The 644K Hybrid has four operating speed ranges, but no reverse gear or clutches as direction changes are performed by the electric motor. An integrated, spring-applied, hydraulically released, wet-disc park brake requires reduced maintenance and increased machine uptime.
To battle the heat, dust, and debris in reclamation facilities, the Quad-Cool system isolates coolers from engine heat and incorporates some unique design features. “It has 3-mm holes on the outside for prescreening large dirt and particles,” Niswender explains. “Anything smaller than the 3 mm will come through and clear those holes, but also clear the cooler and exit the machine. The swing-out for the fan is 90 degrees, rather than just a short 45 degrees. So you’re not limited to getting into the inaccessible corners at the very back of the coolers. The reversible fans can be programmed for 20-, 25-, 30-, 35-, 40-, or 45-minute intervals, depending on the ambient temperature and dust environment. Above and beyond that, the operator can go into the monitor and start it manually within 15 seconds anytime he sees that the gauge is rising.” The Quad-Cool’s design allows access to the very back corners of the coolers to avoid efficiency losses when the cooler isn’t completely clean.
With the benefits of its unique drive train, operator efficiency conveniences, and maintenance features, the 644K provides a good example of how wheel loader manufacturers are answering the needs of the material reclamation facility industry. But Niswender notes that manufacturers also have to answer to the issue of sustainability, as a growing concern for the reclamation business model. “We’re boasting a 25% fuel savings. We know it’s more and it will rise further, but right now a 25% fuel gain is a lot of incentive,” says Niswender. “Customers want to be green, and at Waste Management they’re about to put a 644K hybrid in California for fuel savings-to be financially green but also environmentally green by bringing in a machine with lower emissions.”