The latest innovations on the market help ensure that operating a dozer or wheel loader is a more desirable job than it historically has been. The newest machines are easier to operate, more powerful, and have ergonomic controls and comfortable cabs. The latest software solutions help improve operator performance, which translates to better productivity. The latest safety solutions equip the operator and the cab for disaster, which helps bring peace of mind. A tour of the latest headlines shows that, at least at a well-equipped operation, the dozer or loader-operator position can be an enviable job.
Durable, High-HP Loader
Komatsu’s new WA800-8 wheel loader has several features and capabilities that show it to be the evolutionary successor of the WA800-3E0. “This is not just a Tier 4 Final emissions update,” Robert Hussey, product marketing manager, Komatsu, said. “We listened to our customers’ feedback by adding features such as modulation clutch, throttle lock, trainer seat, and completely redesigned and improved operator cab.”
Released in Q1 2020, the 255,000-lb loader has the most durable chassis in model history, Komatsu reported.
“It has higher horsepower for a productivity advantage; heavier operating weight and higher tipping load for better stability in the pile and when loading trucks; and a z-bar loader linkage for best-in-class breakout force for maximum digging performance,” Hussey said.
Automatic dig, semiautomatic approach, and semiautomatic dump systems can be used together or separately to automate the work phases when v-cycle loading haul trucks, Komatsu reported.
“These features help newer operators become more productive more quickly and reduce fatigue for seasoned operators,” Hussey said.
“When used together, the operator can load a truck simply by controlling the travel path of the loader and pressing one button to initiate dumping operation,” he said. “These systems can also be used independently, and work equipment speed can be adjusted to the operator’s preference.”
The loader features the Komatsu SmartLoader Logic engine control system, which varies the engine output based on the application.
“Historically, machines can be set in Economy mode for increased fuel savings or in Power mode for maximum performance,” Hussey said. “The WA800-8 Komatsu SmartLoader Logic system monitors the work load of the machine and automatically changes between Economy mode and Power mode depending on the phase of the work cycle with no loss in production.”
For example, when the WA800-8 is digging in the face, it will automatically select Power mode. “However, when full power is not required, such as when backing out of the face, the machine will switch to Economy mode to save fuel,” he said. “We want to ensure our customers are getting the production and performance they need from the WA800-8, but also help reduce any unnecessary fuel consumption.”
The unit was designed to address two challenges ubiquitous in surface mining machine operation, operator awareness and machine accessibility. “The WA800-8 has 22 LED work lamps to illuminate the working area in various working conditions,” Hussey said.
“KomVision with Radar Obstacle Detection provides the operator an audible and visual alert when an obstacle is detected in the working area,” he said. “The system uses six cameras, which provide the operator a bird’s-eye view of the working area on a dedicated in-cab monitor and four radar panels to detect obstacles.”
The unit has a dedicated rearview camera display in the cab. It also comes with a 7-in. high-resolution multi-color main monitor. For optimal operator access, a power ladder is available. “Catwalks in front of the cab and handrails located on the counterweight enable operators to easily and safely perform daily checks,” Hussey said. “ISO-certified anchor points are located throughout maintenance areas for technicians to tie off service lanyards.”
The cab has a heated and ventilated air-suspension operator seat. The loader’s variable traction control system and modulation clutch system provide optimal tractive effort in various ground conditions, Komatsu reported. A reinforced z-bar loader linkage provides high breakout force even in the most challenging digging applications. To reduce total cost of ownership, transmission and axle overhaul intervals have been extended, Komatsu reported.
The unit is designed to load 60- to 100-ton (t) haul trucks. It is rated at 854 net hp, has breakout force of 155,000 lb, comes standard with a 15-yd3 bucket, and offers dumping clearance of 15 ft 6 in. “For customers who are loading 150-t haul trucks, there is a high lift boom option available on the WA900-8,” Hussey said. “The WA900-8 has all of the same great features and benefits as the WA800-8, but has higher horsepower and hydraulic power for additional performance.”
The WA800-8 is “designed to be a highly productive pit loader with an operator environment to keep operators comfortable throughout long shifts,” Hussey said.Which speaks to one of the core missions of the company, he said. “Komatsu has always produced highly productive and reliable construction and mining equipment.”
Load Assist Gives Timely Guidance
Volvo announced updates to its wheel loader line, to include the addition of Load Assist on all the large models. The updates speed up cycle times, increase productivity by as much as 10%, and improve fuel efficiency by up to 20%, the company reported.
Released in 2016, Load Assist, described as a collection of machine control applications, operates on Volvo Co-Pilot, an in-cab 10-in. high-resolution touch screen. The company said Load Assist is designed to help customers save time and money. For example, the On-Board Weighing app provides the operator real-time load data that is accurate within 1%. “This helps the operator reduce overloading, underloading, reweighing and waiting times,” Eric Yeomans, product manager, wheel loaders, Volvo Construction Equipment, said. Another Load Assist app, Operator Coaching, helps operators maximize machine utilization “by providing real-time guidance and identifying areas of improvement,” he said. Benefits offered by both apps can include improved productivity and fuel efficiency.
At the same time, Volvo also released five new Load Assist apps for tire pressure monitoring, mapping, performing calculations, note taking and weather monitoring. “The new Map app allows operators to monitor on-site traffic in real time,” Yeomans said. “Not only does this give operators an improved orientation of the site they are working on, but it allows them to proactively adjust their driving behavior according to traffic conditions.”
Other updates to the wheel loader line include the addition of second-generation OptiShift technology and the Reverse-By-Braking function (RBB). “OptiShift allows operators to customize the lockup engagement of their machines,” Yeomans said. “RBB and torque converter with lockup create a direct drive between engine and transmission,” he said. “In addition, powerful engines, attachment optimization, and dry P-brakes, designed to eliminate drag losses, combine for significant fuel efficiency improvements.”
Other available features on the loaders include ActiveCare Direct, which sends machine data to Volvo’s Uptime Center. “Data analysts and our proprietary software sift through the thousands of fault codes a fleet could receive and send the customer and their dealer case alerts on items that need attention and information on how they can resolve the issue,” Yeomans said. “ActiveCare Direct also sends a monthly report along with recommendations from Volvo’s experts,” he said. “It’s an alternative for customers who want the insight, preventative care, and increased uptime telematics provides without the time spent looking through non-critical fault codes that might not need an owner’s immediate attention.” The service is free for one year with the purchase of a new machine.
The biggest model in the line, the L350H uses Volvo’s Fully Automatic Power Shift System to reduce fuel consumption and engine emissions. “The system allows for machine operation in the optimal, fuel efficient, gear, according to speed, kick-down and engine braking, enhancing fuel efficiency,” Yeomans said. “This is complimented by an eco-pedal, with a push-back mechanism that engages when engine rpm is about to exceed the most economic operating range,” he said. “Sensing the resistance, the operator can reduce the pressure and continue within the fuel-efficient range.” If full engine speed is needed, the eco-pedal can be overridden. The line of loaders have other design features that help lower total cost of ownership. “The tiltable cab really reduces maintenance time, as does our new quick-fit system that enables cleaner, faster oil changes on the L260H,” Yeomans said. “We also just extended the oil change interval to 1,000 hours for it and L350h.”
A rimpull control system that allows operators to minimize wheel spin comes standard. “It helps reduce tire wear and fuel consumption for more efficient bucket filling,” Yeomans said.
The frame and structure warranty covers frame, articulation joint and loader arm. Feedback from the field shows the L350H, released in 2017, helps customers achieve performance goals. “We have a limestone quarry customer in Massachusetts that upgraded from an old loader with a 9.5-yd3 bucket to a new Volvo L350H with a 10.5-yd3 bucket and reported a 31% increase in production and savings in labor, fuel and efficiency,” Yeomans said. Matching bucket size to the mine specs and task is critical, he said.
Customizable Dozer Lowers Costs
Caterpillar released the Cat D9 Dozer, replacing the D9T. With an operating weight of 55 t, the D9 offers customization capabilities, and can lower overall costs per unit of material moved by up to 3%, the company reported. A Cat C18 engine comes standard. Exhaust after treatment solutions are offered, to include those that meet Tier 4 Final and Stage V regulations. The D9 has a torque convertor with stator clutch that can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 5%. It has differential steering and a suspended undercarriage for improved mobility and productivity.