Manufacturers such as Takeuchi will continue to optimize size offerings and refine specs and features on their compact track loaders to meet the need to do more with less.
To sustain hard work and heavy loads, Kubota compact track loaders feature a one-piece, welded mainframe and undercarriage.
The industry has seen a trend to very large compact track loaders, such as Bobcat's T870, that can push heavier loads.
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.
As the market has matured, there have been better designs in rubber track production and manufacturers are putting extra effort into making them more durable. When Bobcat went to its newer design, it included the following:
- increased operator comfort through minimized vibration by using suspended rollers and high-strength steel leaf springs;
- raised track idlers on the roller suspension system that make the machine easier to turn (saving wear and tear on tracks);
- drive motors and hydraulic lines on the roller suspension system that are fixed in position and hidden to prevent contact with debris and reduce damage to the machine;
- no greasing or adjusting required.
Maintenance point improvements that were first available on the roller suspension system are now also available on the solid-mount undercarriage of the Bobcat T250, T300 and T320. These improvements include a larger drive sprocket area and an undercarriage design that sheds debris and has clean-out holes to allow pressure washing.
In addition, Bobcat has an exclusive C-pattern track. The compound solution is exclusive, as well. This track helps give a machine aggressive traction, but also provides a comfortable ride for the operator.
Erik Ouwersloot, product manager, Construction Equipment, Kubota: Kubota's SVL75 and SVL90 are designed with time-saving maintenance in mind, featuring an easy tilt-up cabin for convenient access. Daily maintenance checks for engine oil dipstick, fuel filter, water/fuel separator, air cleaner and coolant level are simple, and greasing the machine is also easy with all grease fittings accessible from ground level. A slide-and-tilt radiator and oil cooler are simple to reach because it requires the removal of only four bolts to be tilted for easy cleaning.
In addition, Kubota's compact track loaders were designed to sustain hard work and heavy loads. The mainframe and undercarriage are a one-piece, welded unit to provide uncompromised structural strength.
Designed to be a true track loader, Kubota's SVL75-90 was built with no structural conversions or compromises. For greater durability, the track loader's main frame and track are welded, resulting in a strong and integrated unit. The SVL operates on Kubota-designed rubber tracks, not only ensuring a long lifespan, but also providing strong traction for smooth and powerful performance. The machine's triple-flange lower track rollers help keep the tracks on point and running smoothly, minimizing the risk of de-tracking especially while working on sloped or uneven terrain.