When you think of attachments for special equipment, you immediately think of the famous Swiss knife, which turns a cutting tool into a multifunctional device. The same is true of today’s technology, which uses various attachments to turn a simple construction machine into a universal helper – a jack-of-all-trades in the utility industry.
Let’s take for example one of the most popular types of machinery – skid steer loaders. The main purpose of this type of machines – loading loose materials – has long been complemented by all kinds of auxiliary attachments installed on them. These are buckets of different capacity and purpose, grabs, hydrohammer, pit drill, brushes, cutters, lawn mowers, mulchers, graders, rollers and even a firewood cutter, snow removal rotor and asphalt paver. And this list is constantly growing, designers are developing all new kinds of special attachments for mini loaders. For example, a scraper for clearing space under the conveyors, or attachable bucket-crusher. Let’s take a look at what the market for utility attachments is rich with today.
Speaking about mini loaders, first of all Bobcat brand comes to mind. Among the variety of attachments that the company offers for its mini loaders, we would like to single out something special – for example, pallet forks with hydraulic shear. Unlike standard mechanical forks where the operator has to adjust the distance between the forks manually, the width of these forks is adjusted hydraulically. It’s controlled from the cab. This increases productivity and reduces operator fatigue. Mounting and dismounting of these forks is easy, changing the attachment can be done in minutes without using special tools, significantly saving working time. There is a special step on the pallet forks, which serves as a convenient additional point of support for the operator when entering or exiting the cabin.
Bobcat offers an interesting concrete pump as an attachment. Despite its compact size its productivity is 23 m3/h, concrete mixture is delivered horizontally up to 75 meters with the ability to supply concrete to the second floor level. Such hinged equipment saves a small worksite from having to use wheelbarrows to deliver concrete mix. In addition, there is a special remote control system that allows you to start the engine, stop and control the work of the pump and loader. The concrete pump is built using standard hoses and fittings, all components are well protected and easily accessible for maintenance and adjustment. Loading and unloading is easy, which is helped by the enlarged metal hopper. The concrete pump is a good choice when you need all-purpose equipment for pouring concrete in hard-to-reach areas.
Another leader in the segment of mini loaders – JCB company – also boasts interesting models in the range of its attachments, such as a mower or a tree transplanter. The mowing attachment, a rotary mower, effectively shreds grass in parks, gardens and grassy stadiums. High-speed blades with double rotation, in addition to grass, can shred the remnants of bushes with a branch diameter of up to 10 cm. With an empty weight of just over 730 kg, this attachment cuts grass up to 50 mm high on a strip width of up to 1.83 m. High output is ensured by the design of the body, which has a wall thickness of 6 mm. There are side plates reinforcing the body, which guarantees its durability and increases its service life. The large clearance between the blades and the body prevents the accumulation of debris and grass residue. Serviceability is enhanced with access hatches and hinged guard panels. The blade lock indicator allows the operator to control the blades. Stump protector prevents damage to transmission components.
For replanting trees during landscaping work JCB offers special mounted equipment. The tree replanting attachment allows you to dig out and replant trees with a trunk diameter of up to 115 mm. The replanting tool has petal-shaped cutters, positioned at an angle of 25°, with the help of which it forms a clod of soil when grabbing the tree, protecting the roots from damage during movement. The loader can work with an attachment in conditions of limited space, which is especially important when replanting a tree in old parks or gardens. All JCB transplanter models eliminate accidental damage to the root system and can even dig holes for seedlings. The company uses corrosion-resistant steel in the production of the attachment, which increases the service life and allows you to use the equipment without problems in conditions of high humidity.
New Holland is one of the leading manufacturers of mini loaders. The company equips its machines with numerous types of attachments.
A popular attachment is the excavator attachment, which enables the small loader to be used as an excavator. The front-mounted excavator arm has impressive features for such a small machine. For example, the digging depth is 2.5 m and the dumping height is 2 m, which is enough for digging channels, trenches and pits, as well as for work related to ground leveling. Despite its compact size, the excavator attachment has an offset digging axis, and by replacing the basic 400 mm wide bucket with, for example, a jaw bucket, the range of possible construction and municipal works is considerably increased. In addition, there is also the option of replacing the bucket with a hydraulic hammer. The attachable excavator is easy to operate, mounts on a mini loader and is dismantled in a matter of minutes.
Manufacturer CASE Construction Euqipment also has a number of interesting solutions for its range of skid steer loaders, both using its own designs and with third-party attachment developers.
CASE Skid Steer Loaders are compatible with a wide range of CASE and non-CASE attachments. Among them is the mulcher – indispensable equipment for shredding wood, stumps and bushes at the root. To clean up, for example, under power lines or along pipelines, only the work of machinery with a mulcher guarantees effective cleaning. Unlike shrub cutters or hand-held cutting machines, the attachment is capable of working down to 10 cm into the ground and grind the roots, leaving behind a strip of soil with mulch – a mixture of soil and shredded wood. Sharp knives of the mulcher, rotating at high speed, easily grind even trunks of young trees up to 6 cm in diameter. The mini loader mulcher is equipped with a two-speed motor, which automatically adjusts the rotor speed and torque value depending on load changes.
New attachments for compact machines
Well, to conclude, in order to understand the capabilities of modern attachments installed on mini loaders, let’s look at a couple of new attachments. The first one is the SandMaster bucket for fast sanding, developed by the American company Barrier Sistems. The novelty is designed to quickly fill bags with sand, which is especially important during the construction of temporary dams for flood control. Time is of the essence in emergency situations, and the speedy attachment is a great solution to the problem. The bucket is mounted on a mini loader and can fill up to 6,240 sandbags in an 8-hour work shift. Depending on the model, the capacity of the attachment bagger is from 20 to 26 bags per minute, which is equal to the amount of work that previously required a whole team of workers with shovels.
The second attachment is the SkidCrane hydraulic crane from the American company of the same name, which can turn any mini loader into a real crane. The attachment is a removable crane installation, mounted on the front end of the loader with the help of hydraulic couplings. In this case, the overall dimensions of the equipment with the attached attachment are only slightly larger than the dimensions of the loader, allowing to work in cramped conditions at the construction site. All functions to control the boom, its rotation, tilt and rise are performed by the SkidCrane using an electronic dashboard, and there is also a remote electronic control system of the hydraulic system. The length of the SkidCrane boom when fully extended is 11.3 m and when working with a crawler boom – 14 m. Angle of rotation to the right and left does not exceed 45°. The hydraulic crane has three telescopic boom sections with additional wheels and outriggers for increased stability. The lifting capacity of the mounted crane is 2.3 tons of load when the boom is extended to 5 m, and when extended to 13 m the lifting capacity is about 500 kg.
This is how, with a set of interchangeable attachments, such a seemingly ordinary and familiar utility vehicle as a compact mini loader can effectively solve problems often encountered in utilities or construction, when in addition to loading work, small-scale concrete preparation, material lifting, grass mowing or snow clearing operations are needed. Becoming mega versatile, the mini loader with various attachments allows you to find a quick way out of seemingly hopeless situations, replacing an entire fleet of special equipment.