All Systems Backhoe

July 29, 2021
Giving backhoes new dimensions with improved technology

Technology-enabled backhoes have amped up the machine’s performance, efficiency, and production on the job site.

The backhoe “is the most versatile machine in the industry,” notes Ethan Clowes, backhoe, wheel loader, and site dumpers product manager for JCB.

Options abound.

CASE N Series backhoe loaders have been updated with several enhancements designed to improve performance and productivity on the job site, including a direct-drive transmission that compensates for load and speed to achieve the most efficient roading gear while traveling on various inclines, notes Ed Brenton, brand marketing manager, backhoe loaders, CASE Construction Equipment.

“A ‘loader style’ F-N-R selector switch allows quick and easy directional changes without removing your hand from the loader control lever,” says Brenton.

PowerBoost is a feature similar to CASE’s PowerLift function—it provides a momentary boost of increased hydraulic power for digging through tough ground.

“What differentiates the PowerBoost function from PowerLift is that it does not limit engine RPMs, providing more speed and efficiency,” says Brenton. “For more control while lifting, PowerLift is preferred.”

CASE recently introduced the 580 EV electric backhoe loader. The 580 EV is powered by a 480-volt, 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged by any 220-volt connection.

“While applications vary, each charge can support a typical eight-hour workday,” Brenton points out. “The battery separately powers the drivetrain and hydraulic motors, providing hydraulic breakout forces equal to diesel-powered machines and improved performance during simultaneous loader and drivetrain operation.”

The 580 EV backhoe has the potential to save fleets as much as 90% in annual vehicle service and maintenance costs when considering the reduction/elimination of diesel, engine oil, diesel exhaust fluid, regular preventive maintenance, and long-term engine upkeep/maintenance, as well as the associated labor and time savings, says Brenton.

Grade control systems have started to become more popular, allowing contractors to keep a consistent grade around their job sites without having to hire another person to take grade, Brenton says, adding that this also prevents the operator from having to get in and out of the cab all day.

CASE also has made standard two fuel efficiency systems designed to create the optimal operating environment in providing the right amount of power while reducing the amount of fuel burned, says Brenton.

“Our ‘ECO-mode’ loader function places the engine at its peak torque curve, providing the most efficient power for truck loading and roading applications,” he says. “Our Backhoe ECO-Mode is an RPM range that can be set by the operator on the backhoe hand throttle, which will limit the amount of fuel used while providing the operator with maximum power and speed.”

Caterpillar has introduced three backhoe loader models—420 XE, 440, and 450—that fully incorporate electro-hydraulic controls offering electronic loader and seat-mounted controls paired with an advanced hydraulic system.

“A single tilt loader arm design has been communized across all Cat Center Pivot Backhoe models,” notes Dustin Adams, product application specialist, Caterpillar. “Single tilt loader arms offer a simplified design featuring better breakout forces, lift capabilities, and less maintenance and wear items.

“Additionally, IT Loader Couplers have been updated to be compatible to the single tilt loader arms and retrofittable to previous generations of Cat Backhoe Loaders.”

Adding an IT Coupler can significantly increase machine utilization on the job site, allowing operators to incorporate a set of pallet forks, angle brooms, or snow blades to increase machine versatility, Adams notes.

Seat-mounted controls improve operator comfort and ergonomics, says Adams.

“The controls are independently adjustable and rotate with the operator, reducing the number of movements throughout the workday,” he adds. “Electronic loader controls enable selectable parallel lift, programmable loader kick out, and return to dig.”

Selectable parallel lift is designed to increase operator performance by improving material retention and reducing the number of control adjustments required when utilizing attachments such as pallet forks, says Adams.

Programmable loader kick out and return to dig allows the operator to preset loader arm height kick out and bucket angles to improve operator accuracy and efficiency when working critical loader applications, he adds.

“Operator control modes have been enabled by electro-hydraulic technology,” says Adams. “Operator control modes allow the operator to adjust joystick response and hydraulic modulation when operating the hoe. Operators can make the necessary adjustments to accommodate the job application or operator experience level.”

The joystick response offers three selections: slow, medium, and fast. Hydraulic modulation has three selections: fine, normal, and coarse.

“Fine mode results in reduced implement acceleration and would be the proper selection when lifting or placing objects such as manhole boxes,” says Adams. “Coarse mode results in maximum implement acceleration and could benefit the experienced operator in production style applications. Adjustable operator control modes allow the machine to be tuned to meet specific operator experience and/or job application.”

JCB Backhoe loaders are always using new technology to increase productivity and efficiency and reduce maintenance times, Clowes says.

One example is JCB Automate, a suite of automatic features.

“AutoCHECK completes your daily checks for you without the operator having to open the hood or pull a dipstick,” says Clowes. “AutoSTABILIZERSUP and AutoSRS automate repetitive tasks, allowing the operator to be more productive and ultimately more profitable.”

AutoBOOMLOCK and AutoDRIVE enable the operator to safely lock the boom and drive with a constant engine RPM.

“AutoIDLE lowers the engine revs during paused excavation, saving fuel and reducing noise so you can safely talk to a spotter,” says Clowes.

AutoTHROTTLE will automatically pick up the revs to a preset position when the excavator is operated again. The AutoPREHEAT feature warms the cab and engine and defrosts the windows so the machine is ready to go at the start of the working day.

In addition to new technology, older technologies are being upgraded as well.

Diesel engine technology has advanced greatly in recent years, notes Clowes.

“As the impact of emissions has become more clear, engines have advanced,” he says. “JCB’s engines have reduced fuel usage and emissions. Not only are the engines cleaner and more fuel-efficient, but they’re more powerful than ever before. JCB’s Tier 4 final solution requires no Diesel Particulate Filter.”

The capabilities of backhoe technology are limitless, says Clowes.

“It’s evolving and advancing so fast, things that were once a distant concept are now part of everyday life,” he points out. “One technology advancement that most equipment manufacturers are talking about is the electrification of machines that have zero emissions at the point of use.

“There are already some smaller construction machines on the market that are zero emissions, but there is no solution for larger machines yet,” he adds. “Zero emissions machines are far more efficient than their diesel counterparts. They also have greater performance due to the high torque of an electric motor.”

Technology advancements can be seen in JCB’s range of compact backhoe loaders. As job sites get smaller, the 3CX compact—which is 35% smaller than the full-sized machine—and the world’s smallest backhoe, the 1CXT, are available for most tasks on a job site, notes Clowes.

“These compact machines are only possible because of the advancement of technology that is shrinking components while maintaining productivity and strength,” he adds.

John Deere is working with National Grid—an electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company serving more than 20 million people throughout the Northeast—to joint test an electric backhoe concept John Deere developed.

The battery-powered electric vehicle design, referred to as E-Power, will target the ease of operation and performance level of the diesel-powered, 100 HP 310L Backhoe, notes Justin Steger, solutions marketing manager, John Deere Construction & Forestry.

“The design is intended to provide substantially lower daily operating costs, lower job site noise, enhanced machine reliability, and zero tailpipe emissions,” Steger adds.

The testing intends to gather a robust representative composite of machine performance given National Grid’s machine tasks and applications in varying weather conditions, notes Steger.

The E-Power backhoe is intended to perform the same operations and run the same attachments without sacrificing any of the versatility of a conventional diesel engine-powered backhoe, Steger points out.

“Increased versatility comes in the form of customer and job site requirements, which in the future may drive the need for an E-Power backhoe,” he adds. “Job sites and companies striving to improve sustainability and decarbonizing the equipment in their fleet could be a large part of that effort. Phase One testing positions Deere to develop into the future along with these efforts based on customer needs.”

Meanwhile, John Deere has recently upgraded the 310SL from an open-center gear pump style hydraulic system to a closed-center, pressure-compensated load-sensing hydraulic system.

“Compared to the previous 310SL, upgrading the hydraulic system achieves 16% better trenching performance, better multi-functioning, and more precise control with precision mode, all at a lower RPM which reduces fuel consumption,” says Steger. “The addition of lift mode increases lift capacity by 15%.”

The Kubota TLB is designed to incorporate advanced technology in machine performance and operator comfort.

The HST Plus transmission, standard on the L47 and M62, is designed to provide precision performance by automatically controlling the hydrostatic pump and drive motor to give the operator optimal performance.

“Also on the L47 and M62 Kubota TLBs, the IntelliPanel provides the operator with all of the vital machine information to keep the TLB in peak working condition for maximum productivity,” notes Matt Walker, Product Manager, Kubota Tractor Corporation.

“The IntelliPanel relays key messages to the operator, including machine working status, engine conditions, fuel and oil warning signals, plus an array of maintenance indicators,” he adds.

Among Kubota’s offerings, the Kubota B26 is designed to offer greater power, versatility, and durability with the integrated front loader and quick detach backhoe.

The B26 has an operating weight of 4,001 pounds, a backhoe dig depth of 8 feet, 4 inches, and a front loader lifting capacity of 1,102 pounds.

The L47 features an HST Plus transmission, 2,848 pounds of front loader lifting capacity, and a 47.1 hp engine.

The M62 features a 63 hp engine, performance-matched loader, and backhoe, as well as an HST Plus transmission, suitable for commercial construction sites, notes Walker.

Noting how Kubota’s TLB technological improvements are geared toward greater productivity, Walker points out that with utility installations, the backhoe crawling mode on the L47 and M62 is designed to save the operator time when repositioning during backhoe operation.

“Backhoe crawling mode lets the operator creep forward or backward and reposition the machine while remaining at the backhoe controls,” Walker says.

“Kubota TLBs have become a fixture when disaster relief and cleanup are needed,” he adds. “The Hydraulic 2-lever quick coupler available on the L47 and M62 allows the operator to quickly attach and detach front loader implements such as buckets, pallet forks, grapples, and brooms.”

Kubota also features a throttle-up switch that allows the power and speed of the attachment to increase while the machine speed remains consistent, Walker adds.

Operators also will find a quick coupler on the backhoe designed for quick and easy bucket and attachment change-overs, notes Walker.

The quick coupler is available on the L47 and M62 and is compatible with select Kubota compact excavator buckets.