Manufacturers are offering improved models to buy or hire for a wide range of landscaping works, Sally Drury explains.

Midi excavator: JCB’s 48Z-1 has 100 per cent steel bodywork and a sturdy dipper arm - image: JCB
Midi excavator: JCB’s 48Z-1 has 100 per cent steel bodywork and a sturdy dipper arm - image: JCB

Essential for efficient landscape works, micro, mini and compact excavators take the strain for anyone needing to dig trenches, move earth or even drag out stumps. From time to time they may also be needed elsewhere, perhaps for construction work in the greenhouse or polytunnel, or even to create new pavements around a garden centre.

Whether you buy or hire will depend on frequency of use but it is worth remembering that the latest models offer improvements and advantages over their predecessors.

Midi excavators

Building on the successful introduction of next-generation six-, eight-, nine- and 10-tonne midi excavators launched last year, JCB this year launched four additional models with operating weights from 4.8 to 5.7 tonnes. They are available in conventional, reduced and zero tail swing configurations.

The new models are the 48Z-1 (replacing the 8045Z/8050ZTR), 51R-1 (replacing the 8050ZTR/RTS), 55Z-1 (replacing the 8055ZTS/RTS) and a completely new 57C-1 model. All four boast 100 per cent steel bodywork and a sturdy four-plate dipper arm construction.

The dig end is 100 per cent brushed, leading to extended greasing intervals of 500 hours, and JCB has revised the pin pick-up points to work with a number of competitive bucket brands. Optional hydraulic or manual quick hitches can be specified for faster attachment changeover. The company has also developed a new range of ECO buckets with a redesigned profile for easier filling and improved material retention.

The redesigned dig end, with a longer main boom and shorter dipper arm, provides up to five per cent greater dump height for easier loading into trucks or dumpers. The upgraded hydraulic system also delivers up to nine per cent more bucket tear-out force and two per cent higher dipper arm tear-out to boost performance and productivity.

There is more room and comfort in the cabs, with the 57C-1 using the same structure as the larger 10-tonne machine and offering up to 18 per cent more room and 11 per more visibility, improving comfort and safety. Noise and vibration levels are reduced and the flat glazing is designed for easy replacement.

But the biggest development in the cab is the adoption of a new display screen and control system, featuring an automotive-style rotary controller to allow easy access to a host of systems and information. The operator can set auxiliary hydraulic flows for two separate attachments from the cab, while the menu mode button switches the rotary controller between throttle modes, including a one-touch idle function and menu mode.

The cab is also offered with a new membrane switch panel to control auxiliary flow settings, working lights, beacon, wipers and JCB’s 2Go additional hydraulic activation system. As with the company’s larger excavators, the new midi machines now have nine power modes, including Eco and, for the first time, an H+ heavy digging mode.

Another innovation is the inclusion of an optional safe lift feature, complete with an integral Lift Overload warning system. An industry first at this weight, Safe Lift incorporates a green-amber-red graphic in the new monitor panel, with an audible warning if the machine approaches overload. The feature is included as standard when hose burst check valves have been specified, so ensuring maximum safety for those who use the midi machines to lift pipes and other materials on site.

Productivity is enhanced by an electro-hydraulic dozer control lever, with up to three buttons in the head to control two-speed tracking, dozer float and four-way adjustable doze blade where fitted.

Additional options

While 20 improved standard features can be found on the new JCBs, there are also 20 additional options. For instance, they can be equipped with optional LED work lights that provide the bonus of a guide-me-home function whereby lighting is provided for three minutes after the machine has been turned off, allowing time for the operator to get to a position of safety when working at night.

Options also extend to engines. All four new midi excavators can be supplied with Stage IIIA/Tier 4 Interim Perkins engines, delivering 48hp and 143Nm of torque, or Tier 4 Final engines from JCB by Kohler, producing 48hp and 225Nm. Access to the engine has been improved by a wider opening of the steel canopies at the rear and side of the machine. In the cab, a tool-free removable floor section gives access to the major hydraulic components.

Kubota UK, having sold its 50,000th mini excavator in the UK and Ireland earlier this year, has now signed a landmark agreement with HSS Hire Group to supply mini excavators and compact construction equipment. The deal initially sees 200 Kubota machines available for next-day delivery from all 40 HSS Hire depots across Greater London.

"Mini diggers are really important items of equipment to all our customers and there is clear demand for this type of mini plant throughout London," says HSS Hire chief executive officer John Gill. In the future, the contract is expected to be rolled out across HSS Hire’s network of more than 300 locations throughout the UK, focusing on Kubota’s one- to 2.5-tonne models.

At September’s APF show, held at Ragley Hall, Kubota exhibited its new class-leading Hi-Spec versions of the KX101-3 Alpha 4 and U27-4. The machines include a number of enhancements to add value for end users, including extra hydraulic pipes for powering auxiliary equipment. The two independently acting proportional control circuits ensure the units can power a greater variety of attachments.

For anyone working in the planning, building and maintenance of amenity landscapes and outdoor green spaces, green credentials are important. Reducing emissions and noise are fundamental to this, so it is not surprising that at the Bauma show in Munich earlier this year a fully functional electric prototype of one of Bobcat’s most popular machines — the E10 micro excavator — caused a something of a stir. As well as zero tail swing, this machine also has zero emissions.

Wheeled E57W: Bobcat D24 diesel engine increases power and delivers fuel savings

Developed at the new Bobcat Innovation Centre in Dobris in the Czech Republic, the E10 Electric is the result of collaboration between Bobcat designers and electric-vehicle specialists. It features the factory installed option of an alternative all-electric power train, allowing the machine to be used in areas requiring zero emissions.

While Bobcat is mainly thinking "interiors and basements" with this model, clearly an electric micro excavator would offer benefits in glasshouses, polytunnels and in the green environment generally.

Along with zero emissions, the E10 Electric also offers very low noise levels on site — with an LpA of only 64dB(A) — making it an ideal machine for digging and shifting earth in noise-sensitive locations such as residential areas, around schools and in hospital grounds.

Rechargeable batteries

Must have big batteries? The alternative power train option in the E10 Electric comprises an electric motor that can be powered both by a pack of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or a 400V mains electric supply via a plug-in power cable.

The batteries can be quickly recharged, taking less than an hour to reach full capacity, and when fully charged can power the excavator independently of the mains for about two or three hours. In addition, the E10 Electric offers the capability of carrying out work while charging via the mains power cable.

All other features are as you would expect on the regular E10. It has the same zero tail swing profile and identical external dimensions, including a retracted track width of only 71cm, as the standard diesel-powered E10 machine and offers the same performance.

For work removing concrete floors or paving, the E10 Electric is equipped with auxiliary lines and an efficient oil cooler system for a continuous hydraulic breaker.

Earlier this year Bobcat also launched the new E57W Stage IIIB compliant wheeled excavator. Now fitted with the Bobcat D24 diesel engine delivering a four per cent increase in power along with seven per cent fuel savings, it has an operating weight of just under six tonnes and incorporates an updated hydraulic system to deliver a 10 per cent improvement in live capacity.

A long-arm option increases the machine’s digging depth to 3.8m and the dump height to 4.51m, while improvements to operation include a 7in display to provide fingertip control of all functions.

Attachments for use with a tractor

Landscapers and others in the grounds care sector often need to dig holes or trenches and move soil. One solution may be to buy or hire an excavator. But frequent users may be able to make use of a tractor they already have in their fleet.

Lewis Equipment of Warwickshire offers 400-series backhoes for use with larger compacts and agricultural tractors of 60hp or more. The 410S, 420 and 420S (pictured) are designed and engineered for professional use where access is restricted but a
2.7-3.3m digging depth is required, combined with an arm reach of more than 4m.

The 400S boasts minimal maintenance, requiring no greasing because it uses polymer IGUS bushes. The Lewis tractor beam attachment provides a stable fixing point. The backhoe can be fitted or removed in five minutes, so the tractor can quickly be ready for other duties.

The backhoes are said to be easy to operate and include a range of interchangeable buckets from 15cm to 60cm. They all have a powder-coated finish for corrosion resistance and come with a 12-month warranty.

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