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Heavy weight ambitions

First publishedon www.AggBusiness.com
2008 September
JCB JS520 model
With plans for a 52tonne excavator, JCB has ambitions to move into the quarrying sector. Dan Gilkes reports

JCB is strengthening its range of JS Auto tracked excavators and signalling an intention to move up the weight class, into heavy earthmoving and aggregates extraction. The company is launching two additional mid-weight excavators and previewed a concept of what promises to be its biggest machine to date at the ConExpo show in Las Vegas in March.

The 29tonne JS290 Auto and the 36tonne JS360 Auto will both fill gaps in the existing JS Auto line-up, boosting JCB's offering in the mid-range. However the 52tonne JS520 Auto promises to take JCB into a whole new area of operation.

There are few details yet on this new model, which is officially being dubbed a concept machine. Suffice to say though that this is not a stretched 46tonner, JCB's previous range-topping machine. Featuring a true heavy duty undercarriage and frame, the JS520 looks set to form the basis for a push into even larger machines in the future.

Indeed, the machine is so big that it cannot easily be assembled in the firm's current excavator factory at Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, UK. However JCB is building a new facility for its excavator production, due to open later this year, and that should give some idea of the company's intentions.

For now, the JS290 and JS360 are grabbing the headlines. Last year there were 145,000 tracked excavators sold around the world in the 8-90tonne category. Of that number around 10 percent were in the 28-33tonne class. While JCB's existing JS330 Auto has been a strong player at the top of this weight category, the company has needed a slightly smaller model to meet the needs of customers at the lower end of the sector.

The JS290 will bridge the gap between the JS260 and JS330 in the existing line up, with the JS360 completing the range between the JS330 and the current JS460. Both machines feature a new undercarriage design, redesigned boom and dipper arm layouts, ground level service access and increased cooling capacity.

The machines also benefit from the comfortable JS Auto cab environment, proven Isuzu diesel engines and Japanese hydraulic systems, with a Plexus filtration element to eliminate contamination and reduce downtime.

The JS290 Auto is powered by a 216hp (161kW) engine and can be supplied with long or narrow tracks, a choice of three dipper arm lengths and an XD heavy duty version for more arduous operating conditions.

JCB says that the JS290 offers 6 percent more engine power, 4 percent more hydraulic power and 11 percent higher dipper tearout force than the class average. The slew torque and bucket tearout forces are also best-in-class, at 14 percent and 19 percent ahead of the class average respectively.

"The JS290 is set to raise the bar with its exceptional power and performance," said JCB's group chief operating officer Matthew Taylor.

"The introduction of this all-new model will strengthen JCB's position at the forefront of excavator design and spearhead our drive for a significantly increased share of the world market." However all eyes will be on the JS520 Auto when it becomes available, hopefully later this year. There are already JS460 excavators working in quarries around the world, and the added productivity offered by a 52 tonne machine should prove popular with existing customers.

The arrival of these heavier machines does beg the question about a complete quarrying and earth moving fleet. At present JCB's largest articulated dump truck is the 22tonne capacity 722, though a slightly larger 726 has been seen in prototype form. If JCB wants to work at the heavier end of the market,

it will have to look at larger trucks to match its growing excavator fleet.

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