Vermeer BC1000XL

With a tradition for rugged, reliable machinery that shouts innovation and technology, Vermeer has taken its BC1000 chipper and made it XL with an extra wide feed opening. This drum-type chipper easily smashes timbers up to 30cm across. We find it to be a high-performance, extremely productive machine with a truly aggressive appetite for work.

A large van tows the chipper. With rubber-torsion suspension, towing is smooth but the testers say they would prefer to use a tractor to tow a machine of this size around a site.
By winding two handles, the discharge chute is swung through 90? so chippings are sent back into the wooded boundary of the university's sportsfields. The chute has a limited rotation of 270? to prevent chippings being discharged towards the feed table.
"It's easy and safe to adjust the chute direction," says one tester. "The movement of the chute is positive - it's gear driven. I think it's unlikely the chute would slip round while the machine is being used."
We turn the key and fire up the engine. There is a puff of grey smoke and the engine roars into life. We give it a few revs and the unit settles down to a consistent but somewhat threatening purr. Power comes from a liquid-cooled Cummins 85hp turbo-charged diesel engine.
Having spent all morning removing limbs from mature trees, clearing room for future growth and felling saplings, the testers have accumulated a large stack of timber for processing. Following a brief instruction on the use of the controls, the team begins feeding timber into the chipper. With each timber, a torrent of chippings is blasted from the chute. The power of the machine almost startles the testers, though the power and capacity are reflected in the noise.
The controls are simple but the feed roller impresses one tester most: "It's a large-diameter roller and that means it has the ability to climb the timber. The size of the opening also means material needs less preparation, which saves time." Paddles on the end of the drum create airflow so even brush material and leaves are ejected cleanly.
The BC1000XL has a patented feed- sensing control system called SmartFeed. Based on a pre-setting, it focuses on how quickly the engine loses RPM. When feeding in large timbers, the engine RPM is only allowed to drop slightly before the hydraulic flow to the feed rollers is stopped. Once the rollers have stopped, if the drum does not return to full RPM within a predetermined time, the feed rollers automatically reverse the material. By minimising the contact between the material and the drum, relieving the friction between these two surfaces, the drum can regain full RPM quickly. Feeding of the material then automatically resumes without operator intervention.
There's another side to SmartFeed. When small or brushy material is fed into it, the controller senses the extended time frame of the loss of engine RPM and translates this data by allowing the engine to drop to a lower RPM - but always staying above maximum torque. This keeps productivity high - just the thing when you need to clear the site and get on to the next job.
"There is very little stop/start and we can keep feeding at a cracking pace," says one of the testers. A simple plug-in cartridge permits the RPM setting to be changed if required.
The emergency stop bar offers two settings for sensitivity. Reset and "hold to run" buttons are located on each side of the infeed housing. There is a standard control bar for forward, reverse and neutral. All circuitry is coated in resin to withstand extreme conditions. The unit has an hour meter, fuel gauge and an alternator warning light.
The feed opening is one of the largest in its class - 30cm high by 43cm wide. Everything fed into the BC1000XL is consumed and instantly converted into a jet of chippings - until one of the team finds a 30cm timber with a twist at one end. There's a loud grunt, but the revs return. Another grunt, and again the revs return. Then, with a bang that echoes throughout the campus, the beast grinds to a halt. Have we broken it?
We can see the timber jammed in the feed roller. What happens next is extraordinary. The rep returns to the machine with a jack. Locating a lift point on the outside of the chipper, he winds the handle and racks up the roller. "That's so easy," says one tester. The team watches in silent admiration. But the timber won't budge. There is a blade wedged in it. Yet again, the solution is straightforward. Simply undo four bolts and you have access to the cutting knives.
"This machine is designed for the real world. It stopped but the problem was dealt with remarkably quickly and easily. I am really impressed," says a tester.
The blades are dual-edged. "I like twin-sided blades. It means that when you are out on site, all you have to do is turn the blades round and carry on working. It reduces downtime and that is important," says a tester.
Another important feature of the BC1000XL is the clutchless PTO. This design combines the throttle and clutch engagement mechanism to prevent the drum from being engaged at high revs. It also allows the cutter to be engaged without sliding the engine or using a traditional slip clutch or idler pulley. There is no side-load to the engine and less stress on the crankshaft and bearings.
Maintenance and servicing of the BC1000XL are also easy. There are very few service points - about half a dozen grease nipples and all nuts and bolts are standardised in size - and everything is easy to access so regular checks and servicing are likely to get done.
In the event of more major problems developing, B-Trac has six service engineers on the road throughout the country. The company also stocks £1 million worth of spare parts on the shelf and offers next-day delivery on orders placed by 3pm.
With the instruction manual strapped to one side of the chipper, toolbox fixed to the other, somewhere to store the wheel chocks and spring-assisted tail lift for easy folding of the feed table, it seems Vermeer has thought of everything. And in the near future we can even expect to see a version of the BC1000XL mounted on tracks. What more could we want?

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