Demolition and Recycling Equipment Progresses and Adds Technology
By Mike Slusark
Demolition and recycling equipment is evolving and is going to change quickly in the next five to 10 years. Manufacturers are leading this effort with input from their customers.
Advances are happening in wireless technology, microchips, machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation, cameras, sensors, touch screens, and batteries. These technologies are making equipment safer, more comfortable and easier to operate. Having a forward-thinking approach to technology is important for construction businesses positioning themselves for long-term success.
Enhanced Safety Features
Bird’s-Eye View Cameras
Rearview cameras are now standard on many machines, and sideview cameras are a common option on crawler excavators. The latest camera technology is an onboard computer that takes in the feed of several cameras on a crawler excavator, combines the images together and gives operators a bird’s-eye view of their excavator to virtually eliminate blind spots.
Transparent Wheel Loader Buckets
Imagine a steel bucket that looks like it’s made out of plexiglass. Using augmented reality technology, operators can look at their in-cab screen and see through their bucket. Using the screen, they can see obstacles in their path when they’re carrying a suspended load. Expect this technology on the market in 2021.
Like many of today’s vehicles, some machines can tell operators if there is a nearby obstacle and trigger an alarm. This technology uses a method for measuring distances called lidar – short for light detection and ranging.
Cab pillars are shrinking in size across the industry. Stronger, more affordable glass and polys have made it possible to increase the percentage of window space in the cab. This gives operators a better view of their jobsite.
Productivity and Efficiency Trends
Shorter Operator Learning Curves
Improved sensor technology is taking features that simplify wheel loader, excavator and material handler operation to new levels. Onboard weighing systems are becoming more advanced. The systems allow operators to see on a display in their cab exactly how much weight they are loading. They also tell operators if they are meeting production goals. Boom kick-out is another increasingly common feature. It allows the operator to raise the wheel loader bucket to a set height automatically with the push of a button. It makes loading trucks of a consistent height easy for novice operators.
Smart Engines, Fuel and Hydraulic Systems
Different components of machines now communicate with each other. Sensors in the engine can tell the fuel system how much diesel it requires based on engine load. The hydraulic system can communicate with the engine and optimize hydraulic oil flow specifically for the demands of what an operator is lifting. Working together, these systems help reduce fuel consumption.
Electric Mini Excavators
Electric machines were the big trend of CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020. While electric heavy equipment is mostly in the prototype phase, electric compact equipment is on the market. Electric mini excavators are a useful piece of equipment for indoor demolition, where diesel exhaust poses a potential health hazard.
Connected Machines Pushing Towards Automation
Wireless technology is improving, allowing for more advanced machine telematics. Machines can communicate with each other, with a centralized control system and drones surveying the jobsite. The industry is trending toward full automation.
Equipment on Demolition Jobsites
The bread and butter of any demolition contractor, crawler excavators are durable, versatile machines for tearing down structures. Longer boom options paired with new camera technology enable these machines to do work once reserved for cranes.
Wheel loaders are ideal machines for moving debris and loading trucks. They have greater power and reach than a compact loader, travel faster and can be outfitted with a grapple or grapple bucket for moving and loading debris.
Material handlers commonly feature a droop-nose arm, which makes them ideal for picking and placing demolition debris. Most come paired with a grapple or magnet. Machines are available with cabs that can be hydraulically raised to give operators a better view of the jobsite and lowered for transport. Reinforced track or wheel undercarriages help these machines withstand operating around sharp and abrasive ground material.
Popular in Europe and growing in popularity in North America, wheel excavators are especially useful when operating on concrete or asphalt, where tracks can make for a slower, more uncomfortable ride. Wheel excavators are also a good choice for large jobsites or yards because they cover ground more quickly than a tracked machine.
With advances in engines and hydraulics, mini excavators can pack a lot of power into a small footprint. These machines are also super versatile and can be outfitted with breakers hydraulic thumbs for precision demolition.
Road BuildersRoad builders are like crawler excavators in a suit of armor. They’re called road builders because they were originally designed for the logging industry – to build roads to access new logging tracts. However, many of the features that make them well-suited for that job are also useful on a demolition site. These heavy-duty excavators have high, reinforced undercarriages and tracks with full-length guards. The cabs are heavily reinforced to provide greater protection from falling debris
Photos courtesy of Doosan Infracore North America
This material appears in the May 2021 issues of the ACP Magazines:
California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer,Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor, Western Builder