Keep in mind that buckets and couplers can add a lot of weight. For this reason, you can use a coupler on a 12-ft. stick. However, Caterpillar only offers full auxiliary hydraulics on the shorter stick to maximize stability.
As previously stated, long boom/arms move the work load further from the center of gravity and can limit the size of attachments used. “The opposite is true for short boom/arm combinations because the work load is closer to the center of gravity, reducing stress to the work equipment and allowing for a wider range of attachments to be used,” says Yureskes.
Attachments Provide Options
Attachment manufacturers offer an alternative solution when a standard excavator stick comes up short.
Paul Wever Construction Equipment (PWCE) designs custom solutions to meet specific needs. “Too many people write off what can or cannot happen just based on their opinion of the task that needs to be done,” says Paul Wever. “It is difficult to get people to understand that it is worth the phone call to find out if your machine can accomplish the task.”
PWCE’s most popular attachment is the 16- to 20-ft. Extendavator model. “It pins on like a bucket,” says Wever. “We build them for all different size machines. Our most popular is the 40,000- to 70,000-lb. class… You can actually leave the extension on the machine and transport it based on how we have configured it.”
The ears on the EX70 Extendavator class unit are spread 16.5 in. and it has a 90mm pin. This is designed to fit the machine with the largest pins and bucket spread in that class. Bushing sets and longer pins are used to adapt the unit to other makes and models.
L&G Products offers the Add-a-Stick, which ranges from 12 to 20 ft. “It is a fast way to get extra reach without buying a different machine,” says Larry Heinneman. “In extreme cases, we will make something longer. We do not use a counterweight unless the ground underneath the machine is unstable. We work within the hydraulic limitations of the lifting capacity of the machine.”
What differentiates many of the attachments is the quality of materials used and customization offered. “It is structurally T1 steel and it is very strong,” says Heinneman. “We try to work with the customer and change things so they are convenient to use. Our engineering force will make something fit.”
For applications where you need to economically reach a little longer than the factory stick, L&G Products offers the Add-a-Boot. “That actually fastens to the stick and makes the stick longer,” says Heinneman. “You just replace the pins and pull the bucket. On a 40,000-lb. machine, you can gain 6 or 8 ft. You get up to the top end and we go up to 12 ft.”
PWCE also offers a hydraulically telescoping dipper for mid-size excavators. “I have built them on up to a 70,000-lb. class machine,” Wever notes.
While many companies currently offer telescoping dippersticks as an option on mini-excavators, very few are offering these attachments on mid-size excavators. The concept is the same as it is for backhoe-loaders.
“You don’t have to keep moving. You can just extend that stick out to get a little bit of extra reach,” says Wever. In some cases, it allows you to use a slightly smaller machine because you can get that extra 2 ft. of depth when needed. “We have found that once our customers have a telescoping dipper, the machine that doesn’t have it is the one that sits still.”
The extra reach with the extendible dipper depends on the carrier weight. It ranges from 5 ft. on a 40,000-lb. machine to 6 ft. on a 60,000-lb. machine.
Set for Success
With long reach attachments, setup is critical. For instance, consider the use of quick couplers. “A quick coupler will work,” says Heinneman. “I don’t like them because they usually weigh around 1,000 lbs. and that takes away from the lifting capacity of the machine. When you [extend the dipper] out there, it is desirable to have the least amount of weight possible.”
The operator is also key to success. “The operator has to have integrity in what he does,” says Heinneman. “A bad operator will do things that he isn’t supposed to do. The longer it gets, the better the operator that is required.”