Oct. 29 2018 05:28 PM

Operator comfort has been stressed in these new machines.

Caterpillar's 301.5 Next Gen Mini Excavator

At the outdoor demonstration area during the Green Industry & Equipment Expo held October 17-19 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Caterpillar treated members of the green industry press to a viewing of ten brand-new machines.The 4 1-to-2-ton and 6 3-to-7-ton earth and materials movers are being added to the Peoria, Illinois-based company's range of Next Generation mini hydraulic excavators.

The new mini excavators are distinguished by “industry-first” standard features such as joystick steering, tilt-up canopies or cabs, as well as new options including air conditioning, LCD control screens and expandable undercarriages.

It’ll be a cool, clean, quiet ride in any of the new minis. Operator comfort, convenience and safety has been stressed, with sealed, pressurized cabs to keep dust out, and a redesigned heating/ventilating/air conditioning system that ensures all-weather climate control. Suspension seats with a retractable 3-inch-wide safety belt are standard equipment, and the operating consoles feature adjustable wrist rests. In-cab sound levels have been hushed to 72 decibels.

A Caterpillar spokesperson said at the demonstration that operator comfort and safety features such as air conditioning and sealed, dust-free cabs are more important than ever for employee retention, especially during our industry's current labor crisis.

An operator will have no problem seeing what he’s doing in these new machines. Large front windows on some models slide upward and store conveniently overhead. Expansive glass areas on the sides and rear of the cabs, skylights and rear-view cameras provide visibility all-around. Halogen boom lights and optional front and rear LED lights help, too.

He’ll find it much easier to keep tabs on the condition of these machines, too; many of the new models include an LCD monitor screen that provides easy-to-read information with a jog dial for easy navigation and setting of personal operating preferences. A standard control-pattern changer allows any operator to quickly adapt the machine to his favored joystick movement. A numeric-code machine security system is standard, as is a Bluetooth-enabled radio.

And, he’ll be well-protected via the cab’s rollover and tip-over protection structures, top guard and controls with hydraulic lockout. Tie-down points on the track frames make it easy to secure the machines for transport.

A dozer blade further expands the capability of the new models, allowing the machine to handle backfilling and grading tasks. The blade features ample travel, above and below grade, has a float function, and allows "dig-to-blade" operation for more efficiently handling loose materials. Major structures — upper and lower frames, track frames, booms, and sticks — are modeled after their larger Cat excavator counterparts and designed for long-term durability.

Maintenance is eased by check points that are accessible at ground level through the side doors. Flat, recessed side panels, designed for easy replacement, protect the units from damage. The batteries are maintenance-free.

The 4 new mini excavators in the 1-to-2-ton class include the 301.5 (1.5-ton class, standard tail swing, with canopy); the 301.7 CR (1.7-ton class, compact radius, with canopy); the 301.8 (1.8-ton class, standard tail swing, with either canopy or cab) and the 302 CR (2.0-ton class, compact radius, with either canopy or cab).

The 6 larger mini excavators in the 3-7 ton model lineup includes the 307.5, a standard tail-swing model with a fixed boom; the 308 CR, a compact radius model with a swing boom; the 308 CR VAB, featuring a variable-angle (two-piece) swing boom; the 309 CR, a new model in the mini excavator range that features a compact radius, a swing boom and high-flow auxiliary hydraulics; the 309 CR VAB, which expands the 309 CR’s capability with a variable-angle boom; and the 310, also new to the range, which features a fixed boom, a standard tail swing and twin blade cylinders for handling heavy-duty dozing chores.

The new models range in maximum operating weight from 18,152 to 22,447 pounds and in standard dig depths from 13 feet, 5 inches to 17 feet. Three models, the 307.5, 308 CR and 309 CR, are available with a long-stick option that increases dig depth by approximately 22 inches.

An optional variable-angle boom for the 308 CR VAB and the 309 CR VAB is helpful for digging in tight or congested work areas. Powering the 307.5 is the Cat C2.4 turbo diesel engine rated at 55.9 net horsepower; the six larger models use the Cat C3.3 diesel engine rated at 70.3 net horsepower.

The new mini excavators will be available next year.