On four legs

ability to travel through narrow openings and work on uneven terrain

Narrow tracked or wheeled units with outriggers may still represent something of a niche access market, but their benefits - the ability to travel through narrow openings, work on uneven terrain and drive up steep slopes - seem to be pushing them more and more into the mainstream.

Reflecting this is the fact that the classic 'Spider' machines - made popular by companies like E Falck Schmidt (now Worldlift Industries), Teupen and Omme Lift - have been joined by at least a dozen other manufacturers, many of them Italian, offering machines with working heights from as little as 10 m up to giant 50 m plus machines. Even Time Manufacturing in the US has got into the act with its own Versa-Arborist tree-trimming crawler machine (see picture story).

Niftylift is one company that has entered this market with several narrow, crawler versions of its standard 9 m, 12 m and 17 m models. Simon Mayer, Niftylift's marketing manager, says production started when the company got requests for crawler versions of its standard models; "The tracked drive machines are now proving very popular", he says, "it has become a mainstream product. They've found their market."

The company makes three tracked versions with working heights of 9 m, 12 m and 17 m. The 12 m is the most popular, says Mr Mayer, and is offered with retractable crawlers which reduce travel width to 0.75 m. Based on the self-propelled Height Rider HR12 model, the tracked TD120T is actually offered at almost the same price as the HR 12. Gradeability is a key selling point, says Mr Mayer;"60% is possible, which is a lot higher than on our self-propelled products. That's where they really come into their own."

Niftylift has not been alone in entering this specialist market, with Italian manufacturers including CELA, Palazzani, Oil & Steel, CTE, Porello, Hinowa, RAM, Bluelift, Platform Basket, Lionlift and SUP also now making narrow outrigger based models.

The big name originators, Worldlift Industries and Teupen, now have large ranges of wheeled and tracked models, with other manufacturers still playing catch-up. Teupen is still developing more models, and says it will wait for Bauma to introduce a new 18 m working height Leo crawler as well as a "reworked" version of its tracked Leo 15 GT unit.

Worldlift, meanwhile, has both the small DL models previously branded Denka and the Falcon range based on the previous E Falck Schmidt machines. Worldlift targets both end user and rental buyers with its machines, and has recently found some success in selling to US rental companies - see box story.

Of the Italians, it is Oil & Steel's Octopussy range that is among the most well established, having been launched first in 1997. This year, the company reclassifies and restyles its crawler range into two types, Standard and Twin: the former being those with a single person capacity, the latter for machines capable of carrying two people and fitted with a load control device that will determine working areas based on the number of people in the cab.

The Octopussy range now comprises four Standard models, Octopussy 10, 12, 14 and 17 -the 10 m unit was introduced at Intermat earlier this year - and the Twin 108, 1210, 1412 and 1715 versions.

Relaunching and redesigning an older range is Platform Basket, the new company created out of the bankrupted Basket company earlier this year, and managed by Gabriele Scillia, managing director, and Carlo Molesini, technical director and a previous manager at crane manufacturer Ferrari Gru.

A spokesperson for the company said Platform Basket was in the business of making standard, high volume products, and that its crawler based models will comprise 12, 15 and 18 m working height models. The 18 m RQG 18 unit is the first to be redesigned and will feature all-hydraulic controls rather than the previous electro-hydraulic design (although electro-hydraulic will also be available as an option). Maximum outreach is 10 m. The RQG 12 and 15 models are hydraulic platforms as well.

Palazzani is another producer with long experience in the crawler and wheeled 'Spider' market, although it makes heavier duty machines. The company will use the SAIE show in Bologna to show two new Ragno models that it says "will complete the Ragno manufacturing programme of Palazzani."

The new arrivals are the 42 m working height XTJ 42 and 48 m XTJ 48, which is actually a reworking of the previous TSJ 48. Both can be mounted on wheels with three axles, or on runner tracks. The tracked versions can be retracted to a travel width of just 1.45 m. Features include multiple outrigger positions with automatic outreach management depending on their position, and a bi-energy options with a 35 kW diesel engine and single- or three-phase a.c. supply, or a d.c. power pack on the wheeled models.

SUP, which is a partner company to CMC in Bari, is launching a new range of Spider machines with working heights of 12, 14, 18, 25, 30 and 41 m. SAIE will see the first of the range, the 12 m with both diesel and electrical power, and January next year will see the introduction of the 41 m wheeled model.

In Finland, meanwhile, High Set Tecno continues to develop its two Leguan models, the Leguan 110, an 11 m working height model, and the 12.5 m Leguan 125. Although on the market for some time, High Set recently adapted the two models by offering them with either wheels or on tracks. The tracks are fitted permanently rather than the clip-on tracks available before which were simply fitted over the existing wheels. High Set's managing director, Ari Kiiski, tells AI that the tracked models now represent 50% of sales.

Another important change to the two platforms is a new skid-steer type drive system, using a drive motor on each wheel rather than one on each side. This mirrors the changes to the drive system used by sister company Avant Tecno for its compact tool carrier machines. The use of 20 inch rather than 18 inch wheels improves clearance, and the four motor system is more efficient, meaning a 50% increase in maximum travel speed.

Mr Kiiski says the High Set is looking at producing a larger version of the Leguan. The company has previously made a 16 m model, and he says that work has started on a new machine of around this size, although we can expect a launch in 2008 rather than next year.

Finally, Ruthmann in Germany has returned to the Spider arena having ceased manufacture two years ago of its two models, the TR 220 and TR 300. A spokesman for the company says the explanation for the turnaround is not just because the German market has improved - although that is an important consideration - but because there is demand for the kind of "very stable" machines that Ruthmann makes.

The newly produced models will look just like the previous units; "why should we make changes?", says the spokesman. Some things are just best left alone.

 

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