Technology has always been a tricky issue for compact equipment. Tech features can be expensive and represent a higher percentage of total initial cost than on larger models. And the same technology that provides clear value for production-class equipment doesn’t have the same return on investment for compact machines, which handle varied applications and typically have lower utilization rates.
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Doosan uses engines carefully matched with pumps to provide optimal hydraulic performance. Rubber hydraulic lines are routed through the lower portion of the boom swing casting, and steel lines are secured on the top of the boom structure for protection. And while attachments are popular and useful, “a blade can be an effective tool for operators,” says Aaron Kleingartner, marketing manager, Doosan. An optional angle blade gives 25 degrees of angle left and right. With it, operators can direct spoil from one side of the blade to the other without forming windrows on both sides of the blade.
Features on Hitachi’s six-model lineup include a heavy-duty X-frame that provides a stable platform and resists dirt buildup, wedge-style couplers for quick changes of a variety of buckets and attachments, rubber tracks, and Tier 4 Final Yanmar engines. A canopy is available on all models as a cost-effective alternative to a cab. Isochronous high idle reduces noise by maintaining a constant engine speed under varying loads.
As part of Kobelco’s iNDr noise and dust reduction package, engine compartments are fully enclosed, resulting in much lower noise levels. A thumb mounting lug is standard on most machines, and suspension seats are on many models.
Kobelco also addresses the North American market with higher capacity engine and hydraulic cooling systems, says George Lumpkins, general manager of marketing, Kobelco USA. In addition, the ability to change between steel and rubber tracks without modifying the excavator base is optimized for North America. Counterweights are heavier, or additional weights are available. North American models’ pattern changers include a tractor loader backhoe pattern.
Kubota also has enhanced its hydraulics architecture. Attachment flows can be adjusted from inside the cab. All 11 “-4” models have a hydraulic diverter valve in the arm for quick change of hydraulic lines with the thumb hydraulics connected. This simplifies attachment management on machines equipped with thumbs. An option for two service ports is available on KX040-4 and larger machines and is standard on the KX080-4. “The number of attachments for compact excavators grows every year,” says Jeff Jacobsmeyer, Kubota product manager. “Sophisticated hydraulics allow the operator to match the flow to the attachment, preventing damage and optimizing performance.”
Doran Herritt, construction equipment brand marketing manager, New Holland, points to four tech features on the company’s compact excavators. The auto-shift travel system downshifts and upshifts automatically to maintain momentum as loads change due to condition changes. Auto idle drops engine speed to reduce wear and conserve fuel when the operator is not using the travel or excavator levers. Fleetforce telematics includes usage monitoring, which helps with preventive maintenance scheduling, and geofencing. The smallest New Holland model, the E17c, has retractable tracks.