In part 2 of this series on advances in compact track loader designs, the editors at Equipment Today asked leading suppliers of compact track loaders (CTLs) what affect design changes have had on the durability, longevity and serviceability of these machines and their components – in particular, the undercarriage/track systems. Here are their responses:
David Steger, product and training manager, Takeuchi: While some in the industry have been attempting to reduce cost by removing metal and implementing automotive-style manufacturing processes, Takeuchi believes that greater material thickness and fully welded and reinforced structures are mandatory if you want the durability and longevity that the equipment market demands. Its machines are built for the long haul and typically outperform and outlast the competition throughout the machine's life.
Takeuchi is the originator of the CTL-style undercarriage and, as a result, has made numerous contributions in both undercarriage design and track construction. It uses a unique track design that provides the best overall durability in the widest range of materials. This design uses custom-forged steel track inserts that provide excellent sprocket contact, as well as an integrated steel pad that contacts directly with the undercarriage to resist damage to the rubber and cables used to construct the track.
The undercarriage is also unique for several reasons. The old adage, "Often imitated, never duplicated" holds true for Takeuchi. Over the years, the designs had been imitated by several manufacturers but they often overlook some critical aspect during their replication. Maybe it's the incredible traction force and two-speed travel that propel the machine in most any condition, or the unique sprocket contact pattern that maximizes the power transfer while improving the track life. Some say it's the extreme duty undercarriage rollers that look and perform like they belong on a crawler dozer instead of a "compact" machine, or the fully integrated frame that properly distributes the tortures of excavating and maneuvering over rough terrain throughout the entire machine.
The truth is that it's not one single thing that makes our undercarriage so durable and productive. It's a combination of items that all add up to make the best better. The maintenance-free rollers use metal face seals to keep the elements out, while the large bearings and oversized components support the machine in the most demanding applications. Servicing and inspecting the undercarriage is made easier also with the sloped frame, and strategically placed crossmembers help shed material. The protected lower housing helps keep large rocks, branches and other debris out, while still allowing for routine cleaning and maintenance to be performed.
Greg Rostberg, marketing manager, Bobcat Company: For Bobcat's M-Series, the entire design was created to provide contractors a more durable and easily serviceable machine, including the following:
- One-side serviceability: The swing-open tailgate and transversely mounted engine make it easy to check engine fluids and filters, examine the air cleaner and other components, and inspect the battery.
- Hydraulic and hydrostatic components: Within five minutes, you can access hydraulic and hydrostatic components by removing two nuts and tipping the cab.
- Oil cooler and radiator: Easily access and clean the engine components.
In addition, a solid-steel, one-piece protective tailgate is strong and durable. It has no cooling holes, slots or openings.
Bobcat compact track loaders also feature a multi-groove Kevlar belt and pulleys to power the hydraulic system. The system, which allows the pump to turn faster than the engine, provides one-side serviceability of all routine maintenance points; quieter engine with longer service life; and a three-year belt warranty (if belt needs to be replaced) and minimal maintenance.