Less Operator Fatigue = Higher Productivity
Increasing awareness and concern for safety is currently a huge trend in compaction equipment, according to Schulenberg. "The concept of safety is growing beyond the traditional concept of protecting an operator from an injury-causing accident," he says. "We're seeing increasing regulations in Europe for noise, hand/arm vibrations (HAV) and exhaust. Concurrently, North America is increasing its regulations on engine emissions. We are also seeing customers operating outside of the EU ask for products that are compliant with these regulations. They recognize the benefit of these regulations in terms of improved productivity. Wacker Neuson is continuously improving its product with respect to noise, HAV and emissions."
The effort to reduce HAV, in particular, originated in Europe, where regulations are more strict with regard to ergonomics. As a result, manufacturers such as Weber MT and Atlas Copco have introduced patented or trademarked solutions to further remove the operator from the vibrations of the machine, while still allowing precise control of the unit. Weber MT's solution, for example, includes a design incorporating three additional shock mounts (or isolators) to increase operator comfort, a very valuable design feature, especially during long projects.
Likewise, selected models of Multiquip rammers and vibratory plates are equipped with handle designs that improve operator comfort by reducing vibration. "Mikasa reversible plates feature ergonomically designed handles designed to minimize the vibration transferred to the operator," says Williamson.
BOMAG tampers and reversible plate compactors also have ergonomic handles that are height-adjustable to suit different operators. "The handles are also isolated from vibrations so operators can work longer and more comfortably," says Stenz. "BOMAG BVP single-direction plates have the lowest hard-arm vibration levels among all industry standard plate compactors."
Vibration isolation is the single most important factor in improving ergonomics and operator comfort on compaction equipment, Schulenberg says, adding, "We're always experimenting with new materials and machine configurations in order to develop the lowest-vibration environment possible without sacrificing the control of the machine."
Engines that Stand Up to Compaction
Engine technology is currently a very heated topic, as manufacturers of larger pieces of equipment struggle with meeting Tier IV regulations while maintaining the performance of their machines.
"All engine designs are being impacted by increasing emissions regulations," Schulenberg says. "Larger diesel engines are going to start using common rail injection, turbochargers and particulate filters in order to meet Tier IV regulations. Small engines are affected as well."
On smaller types of compaction equipment, such as rammers, for example, there are unique engine concerns. There is perhaps no environment harder on a small gasoline engine than rammer usage. To meet the demand for a durable rammer engine, Subaru developed its ER12 model with this application in mind.
Multiquip’s Mikasa MTX70SD rammers are now powered by the new Subaru ER12 engines, Williamson notes. "The machines avoid engine issues with an oil protection system and a longer maintenance cycle, which is 50-percent longer on oil replacements. They offer an easier start with a digital ignition system and high performance, even in high-altitude applications with a lower need for high-altitude adjustments. In addition to a low-noise engine design, there is an automatic engine shut down if the unit falls over or idles for longer than five minutes."
Witt from Weber adds, "Clearly the ER12 from Subaru is the latest in engine design specifically for rammer/jumping jack applications. It dramatically improves the balancing of the unit and incorporates features such as an ongoing low-oil warning sensor (i.e., not
just upon start-up)."