When you have land to clear for a project, trees and brush need to be taken care of fast and safely. Manufacturers of brush chippers have developed features and options that can help maximize productivity and/or reduce labor costs during chipping.
According to Rob Faber, commercial sales specialist at Morbark, the benefits also include reduced potential for injury and repetitive motion ailments, plus a possible reduction in insurance costs and liability concerns. He adds that these features and options can be grouped into three main areas.
Feed systems get smart
Recently, systems have gotten "smarter" when it comes to drawing brush and limbs into a chipper. "There are different styles, but most use rpm sensors," Faber says. "When a preset rpm is reached, the sensor will stop the feed wheels. Often, this is followed by a reverse action to clear the material. The operator doesn't have to stand next to a control bar to feed in material and monitor operations as closely now." He points out that an auto-feed feature is standard on Morbark machines.
Bandit Industries offers the Auto Feed Plus on its 9- to 18-in.-diameter hand-fed chippers. This feature starts, stops and automatically reverses the feed system to protect the chipper from lugging to the point of stalling the engine. "When reversing the feed, material is pulled out of the cut, which prevents wood from rubbing against the knives," comments Leslie Kinnee at Bandit. "This shortens recovery time while eliminating the potential for burning and dulling knives. The easy-to-program reverse feature is infinitely adjustable from a millisecond up to 65 seconds to fit your application."
She adds, "This option, which retails for about $1,200, increases fuel economy, improves knife life and allows the operator to gather additional material instead of attending the chipper. It also improves chip uniformity, which can increase chip resale value."
Vermeer offers the SmartFeed system, which is standard on five of its models. "This patented feed-sensing control system addresses predictability, or how quickly the engine loses rpm, rather than reacting based on a predetermined machine setting," Mark Rieckhoff, environmental segment manager, explains. "The controller will only allow the engine rpm to drop slightly before stopping hydraulic flow to the feed rollers. Once they've stopped, if the engine doesn't return to full rpm within a set time, the roller will automatically reverse the material. This minimizes contact between the wood and the drum to relieve friction. It also allows the drum to return to full rpm as quickly as possible and resume automatic feeding - without operator involvement."
Rieckhoff notes that for small-diameter or loose, brushy material, the feature senses extended rpm loss time. It commands the engine to drop to a lower rpm while retaining maximum torque. "This helps increase brush chipper productivity because it decreases the number of stops and starts while brushy material is processed. It helps reduce the chance of self-feeding at a low rpm, too," he points out.
Jay Benbo of S and S Tree, a full-service tree care contractor in St. Paul, MN, appreciates this feature on his company's two Vermeer chippers. "We really like how it pulls the branches in and automatically senses engine rpm so we don't have to be right there all the time," he notes.
The SmartFeed has an integrated hydraulic overpressure sensor that detects a possible stall of feed roller motors during the feeding process. "Prior to a stall, this controller initiates a reversing sequence that actually manipulates the material back and forth, at a greater distance each repetition, until the material goes through into the chipping chamber," Rieckhoff says. "This usually eliminates the need for operator involvement."
For increased operator safety around the infeed area, ANSI and OSHA set standards requiring the ability to quickly stop or reverse the device. All manufacturers follow these standards.