Komatsu mods clear feed path

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A change made to the hydraulic fans in Komatsu’s wheel loader range has opened up a new world of possibilities for feedlot owners.

Komatsu mods clear feed path
One of the WA320 PZ6 machines in QLD, where more than 60 per cent of Australia's 400 accredited feedlots are located.


More and more feedlot owners are using wheel loaders to help manage the large amounts of feed they use on a daily basis – but one design obstacle was causing problems for early adopters, Komatsu says.

Feedback from those users was that anyone using the machines on a feedlot needed to stop work regularly to remove loose chaff and other high fibre debris.

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Komatsu national technical manager for wheel loaders Steve Hollins says customers wanted to be able to carry out "a full shift of operation" without having to stop to clean the radiator and cooler on the vehicles.

"For years, the need to stop and clean radiators has been an annoying, and as it turns out unnecessary drain on productivity," he says.

"Operators in the feedlot industry are sometimes working in heat up to 50 degrees, and in conditions where a 'hay-buster' can split open a core of feed in a matter of seconds and create an almost impenetrable dust storm."

More than 60 per cent of Australia's 400 accredited feedlots are located in regional Queensland, where temperatures are comparatively high – and where the build-up of chaff and other high fibre debris can pose a risk of fire.

Australian Komatsu engineers spent several years examining the airflow patterns over the radiators of their machines in order to fix the problem.

Four years ago Komatsu developed wider-core radiator vanes – opening blades from 2-3mm to 5-6mm, allowing fibres and debris to find its way past and through the radiator without the same propensity to clog.

Available as an option on the WA 270-8 and WA320-8 wheel loaders, the wider vanes helped development of a reverse cycle for the hydraulic fans that distribute air over the machine's radiator - picking up clean air from behind the radiator and forcing it forward to clear the vents.  

The same technique was applied to the engine and transmission oil cooler which sits alongside the radiator.

The reverse cycle function operates every 20 minutes for three minutes under normal conditions but can be programmed to work for five minutes in every 12 in severe conditions.

The changes mean operators who once needed to stop three or four times a shift to clean radiators with compressed air are now reporting up to 100 hours between major cleans, Hollins says.

"Improvements by the Komatsu factory have provided even greater efficiency… It's pleasing that many of our modifications have been taken up as standard equipment on later models," he says.

Another change Komatsu made, roughly 18 months ago, was relocating its air conditioning condenser from near the radiator to the top of the cabin, creating an additional airway for engine cooling and cooler, cleaner air to the operator.

The condenser, like the radiators, has an automatically activated self-cleaning function which further reduces the possibility of clogging.

It is provided as a retro-fit to the company's PZ-6 wheel loaders which are widely used in the feedlot industry and is an installation modification on Dash Seven and Dash Eight machines which have incorporated some of the innovation as original equipment.


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