Opening the Onsite Swiss Army Knife

May 1, 2011
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Backhoe loaders are among the most versatile of all construction machines. That’s because they can mount a wide variety of attachments from the front or the back. For backhoes, attachments include several buckets, a cold asphalt planer, a hydraulic hammer, an auger, a ripper, mechanical and hydraulic thumbs, a quick-coupler, and a vibratory plate compactor. Loader tools include various buckets, a blade, a broom, a rake, an asphalt cutter, loader forks, and more.

This is a good time to look for a new backhoe, because three of the major players—Case, JCB, and Terex—have recently brought out new machines. And not long ago John Deere brought out its new Total Machine Control, which offers excavator-style joysticks and fingertip controls built into the armrests. It’s a good idea to think attachments as well: Backhoes can mount anything from a breaker to a plate compactor.

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Let’s start with Case, which last September introduced four new N Series models. Case says the new models have sharp increases in backhoe breakout force and lift, along with increased loader breakout force, lift, and reach. The new machines also provide substantially improved visibility and operator comfort.

“The N Series was engineered from the ground up,” says Rob Marringa, marketing manager, Case Construction Equipment. “We’ve taken the flagship product of the Case lineup and delivered best-in-class performance from back to front.”

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The new Case 580N, 580 Super N, 580 Super N Wide Track, and 590 Super N loader/backhoes replace the company’s M Series 3 product line. The new machines all feature 4.5-liter turbocharged engines ranging from 79 horsepower in the 580N to 108 horsepower in the 590SN.

Case substantially boosted the craning power of its new loader/backhoe. “One new feature that is a real game-changer on the N Series is the Case-exclusive PowerLift,” Marringa says. “PowerLift channels the hydraulic power directly to the boom with the touch of a button. As a result, our backhoe lifting capabilities outperform competitive models by as much as 39%—while running at low engine speeds.”

Case says the backhoe’s lifting capacity is comparable to that of an 8-ton excavator. A new fabricated backhoe boom design increases the boom’s strength while maintaining the over-center design. Backhoe bucket pins are larger and stronger to accommodate the improved lift capacities. Meanwhile, maintainability is continued with triple bushings and floating pins.

Marringa says Case tested the new backhoes with operators across North America. One such operator was Dennis Zentner of DRZ Contracting, Delta, BC, who said, “The 580 SN WT backhoe performed well on grading, trenching, backfilling, heavy lifting, hole patching, and rock breaking. Its heavy-lift ability is fantastic. It will save me from using an excavator for lifting.”

The N Series machines also deliver more power to the loader, for increased breakout and lifting capability. The new loader arms are stronger and longer, which provides greater reach into a truck, for example.

With the N Series, Case is introducing a new transmission family. The options are the Powershift S-Type, Powershift H-Type, and Powershuttle. All transmission choices are available on the 580SN, the 580SN Wide Track, and the 590SN. The 580N offers the all but the Powershift H-Type. The two Powershift transmissions feature four forward and three reverse gears.

The Powershuttle transmission, meanwhile, offers four forward and four reverse gears. The Powershift transmission provides a standard kick-down feature and introduces what Case says is an industry exclusive, the SmartClutch modulation. The SmartClutch feature lets operators customize the transition from forward to reverse to meet the demands of their specific application.

Case says the N Series machines deliver improved efficiency and cycle times through the use of a variable volume hydraulic (VVH) system. The VVH operates at a lower temperature than competitive hydraulic systems. The 580N continues to offer a single-gear-pump, open-center hydraulic system.

What’s more, a new cab on the N Series offers floor-to-ceiling windows for superior visibility. New rear quarter-windows provide easy communication to the rear of the machine and improve cross-ventilation comfort. A new side-lighting package helps illuminate the entire perimeter of the N Series machine. Case says the N Series cabs, at 72 decibels, are among the industry’s quietest.

Total Machine Control
Not long ago, John Deere introduced backhoes with Total Machine Control (TMC), which replaces old mechanical sticks with excavator-style joysticks and fingertip controls that are built right into the armrests. Deere says TMC owners enjoy up to 20% faster cycle times.

In all, John Deere offers eight models of backhoe loaders. The smallest model is the 110 TLB, with 41 net horsepower and a 10-foot dig depth. The 310J and 310SJ feature horsepowers of 84 and 93, respectively, and they have dig depths of 14 feet, 2 inches, and 14 feet, 4 inches, respectively. The 310SJ TMC model boasts 94 horsepower and a 14-foot, 9-inch dig depth. The 315SJ is a 93-horsepower model with a backhoe that shifts from full right to full left and digs 14 feet, 5 inches deep.

The 410J has 98 horsepower and a 15-foot, 8-inch dig depth. The 410J TMC backhoe also has 98 horsepower, and it can dig to a depth of 15 feet, 11 inches. The big brother of the group is the John Deere 710J, which has 126 horsepower and digs to a depth of 17 feet, 9 inches.

Tool carriers are standard on TMC machines, along with four handy features designed to make operators more productive:

  • Electronic parallel lift
  • Loader coupler
  • Boom height kick-out
  • Return to carry

“We have taken features from our four-wheel-drive loaders and put them on the front of our backhoe,” says Bob Tyler, John Deere’s product marketing manager for backhoe loaders. “Four-wheel drive loaders have had boom-height kick-out for many years. But the TMC backhoe is the only backhoe in the world that has that feature.”

Boom-height kick-out will automatically stop the loader arms from raising at a certain preset point. The operator reaches that height, pushes a button on a sealed switch control panel, and the loader will raise to that height automatically every time. So the operator can reach that exact height quickly, which is especially handy for tasks involving the same height repetitively.

Electronic parallel lift is a feature that automatically keeps the forks level with the ground as the operator raises and lowers it. There is no need to rotate the forks manually through the cycle. A loader coupler enables the operator to drop a bucket and mount pallet forks or other attachments. Return-to-carry (RTC) is very similar to return-to-dig. RTC simply means that the loader automatically will return to a certain preset height as the operator lowers the bucket from its dumping position. It is turned on and off by a button on the sealed switch module.

With TMC backhoes, Deere has added a mini-joystick that enables operators to “leapfrog” the backhoe easily if you get it stuck in the mud. The mini-joystick resides just in front of the right-hand controller. So you can rest your hands on the right-hand and left-hand joystick to control the backhoe, and reach the mini-joystick with your middle finger to operate the front loader. That way you can push with the loader and pull with the backhoe to extricate yourself from a sticky situation.

Caterpillar’s latest introduction is the 450E backhoe loader, which it introduced in January 2007. The 450E has 124 net horsepower and a backhoe digging depth of 17 feet, 3 inches, when equipped with a standard stick. The extendable stick pushes the 450E digging depth to 21, feet 4 inches. Cat says the 450E has greater digging depth and digging forces than the model it replaces. And now, the 450E has a pilot-operated joystick control system.

The workhorse models in the Caterpillar lineup are the 420E and the 430E. The 420E has 93 net horsepower and a backhoe digging depth of 14 feet, 4 inches, with the standard stick. The 430E has 97 net horsepower and a backhoe digging depth of 15 feet, 9 inches, with the standard stick. Extendible sticks are available for both machines.

Cat’s variable displacement piston pump and closed-center, load-sensing hydraulics provide quick implement response and speed as well as high forces at any speed. Flow-sharing hydraulic valves ensure proportional hydraulic flow to all implements and improve multifunction performance.

Caterpillar says the 420E features a 14% increase in backhoe stick breakout force, compared with the previous model. As well, the 430E has increased lifting and breakout and swing forces. The result is aggressive trenching performance and improved backfilling capability.

New From JCB
Last year at BAUMA in Munich, Germany, JCB unveiled its new range of backhoe loaders. The company has improved the cab for greater comfort and offers power brakes that provide proportional braking and improve fuel economy.

JCB says improved fuel economy is a major benefit with the new machines. A new hydraulic system now uses three hydraulic pumps to provide the same hydraulic output as previous models, but at lower engine speeds. That delivers average fuel savings of up to 15%, the company says. Operators can select from two working modes, either Eco mode or low flow, to optimize productivity and improve machine control.

A secondary benefit of the three-pump design is faster performance of the extending dipper stick. And the new hydraulic system and lower engine speeds also contribute to a reduction in exhaust emissions and lower overall machine noise levels.

The new JCB backhoes come with the existing EcoRoad options of Smooth Ride System and TorqueLock to boost productivity. TorqueLock reduces fuel consumption by up to 25% while increasing speed by up to 10%. The Smooth Ride System maximizes load retention in the loader bucket while moving about the job site.

Power brakes are being introduced on both the 3CX and 4CX models. The system provides proportional braking throughout the pedal travel. The power brake design ensures that the brake pads fully release when the drive comes off the pedal. That enables operators to better maintain roading speeds and contributes to fuel savings.

JCB also offers a new combined hammer and bidirectional auxiliary circuit to make the fitting of attachment power circuits easier. The new circuit is designed to provide low flow and high flow across both the 3CX and 4CX models, including all fixed and extending dipper sticks.

Two Models From Volvo
Volvo Construction Equipment offers two models of backhoe loaders in North America, the BL70 and the BL60. Volvo engines are known for fuel economy, and the new backhoes are fitted with the company’s D5D Tier 3 engines with high torque and powerful breakout forces. The 90- horsepower BL70 has a dig depth of 14 feet, 9 inches, an operating weight of 17,248 pounds, a bucket capacity of 1.3 cubic yards, a loader lift capacity of 6,950 pounds, and a breakout force of 12,445 pounds.

The 83-horsepower Volvo BL60 has a dig depth of 14 feet, 5 inches, an operating weight of 16,178 pounds, a bucket capacity of 1 cubic yard, a loader lift capacity of 5,460 pounds, and a breakout force of 11,330 pounds. Both the BL60 and BL70 can be equipped with a variety of attachments for specific job applications and have standard Volvo hydrostatic steering and load-sensing hydraulic systems.

Volvo’s flow-sharing hydraulic system automatically balances fluid flow between hydraulic functions to optimize multifunction performance. The flow from the pump is shared among functions in proportion to the movement of the levers when using two or more functions simultaneously. An open-center, gear-type pump powers the digging elements and attachments. Maximum flow is 30.1 US gallons per minute, and working pressures are 3,626 psi and 3,191 psi at the excavator and loader, respectively.

The BL60 will travel at speeds up to 21.2 mph in fourth gear. Maximum speeds are 3.3 mph in first, 5.2 mph in second, and 10.6 mph in third gear. Brakes are multiplate, oil-immersed, servo-power-assisted, self-adjusting outboard disc brakes with four-wheel drive automatically engaged in third and fourth gear.

Ninth Generation From Terex
Terex recently introduced its TLB840 backhoe loader to North America. This is the ninth-generation of backhoe loaders offered by Terex. The machine boasts an 88-horsepower Perkins engine and is powered by an optional four-speed, servo-power, synchro transmission with automatic shifting. “We surveyed customers about what features and functionality they wanted in a backhoe loader, and we designed this machine around what operators asked for,” says Tom Reith, product manager, Terex Construction Americas. “As a result the TLB840 features a spacious, ergonomic cab, extended dig depth, and reach capabilities with increased power and maneuverability.”

The TLB840 has a curved backhoe boom design that offers greater clearance to reach over obstacles and load closer into trucks. With a dig depth of 14 feet, 9 inches (extendable to 18 feet, 1 inch), the TLB840 is designed with a new slewing system that provides high torque for easier backfilling and slewing uphill. The “deep dig” extendable dipper stick is new on the TLB 840. With an optional thumb attachment, operators can clamp onto objects and materials with ease.

With a loading height of 11 feet, 3 inches, the Terex TLB840 can load high-sided trucks. And with “return to dig” selectable at the touch of a button, the backhoe has reduced cycle times and quick-loading capability. The hydro-mechanical, self-leveling feature on the TLB840 enables the operator to avoid spillage from the loader bucket. And the hydraulic unload button controls the loader’s lift speed and boosts the machine’s pushing performance.

A Demountable Alternative
The Bradco 485 backhoe is designed to mate to tractors or skid-steer loaders using 3- or 4-point hitch mounts. With 180 degrees of rotation, the 485 features a 10-foot, 7-inch reach and an 8-foot, 5-inch maximum digging depth, with a bucket digging force of 3,895 pounds. Bradco offers hitch and subframe-mount excavators with reach and depth capabilities of more than 11 feet at digging forces in excess of 5,600 pounds.

So give your favorite equipment dealers a call. They’ll be happy to respond, and they have more features than ever to offer on backhoe loaders.