Introducing a unique combination of lifting performance and the 360°-swing functionality of an excavator, Volvo Construction Equipment will soon deliver to the market a new product class of pipelaying machines targeting, primarily, contractors in the on-shore oil and gas industry. Developed from a patented adaptation of Volvo excavator machines combined with modern lifting technology, Volvo pipelayers offer a number of technical advantages over traditional pipelaying dozers with side-based booms.
Volvo’s new class of purpose-built pipelaying equipment includes five models: the Volvo PL4611C, Volvo PL4608C, Volvo PL2904C, Volvo PL7015C, and Volvo PL2102C. Lift capacities range from 20,300 to 152,000 kg (44,800 to 336,000 lb). According to Volvo, the new class of pipelayers will be available to the North American market in the second quarter of 2008.
Built up from an excavator configuration, the new Volvo equipment provides a 360°-swing with full lifting performance and functionality at all radius positions. Conventional pipelayers employ side-based booms that are limited to a fixed position for lifting off one side only with boom mountings on the outside of the track roller frames, limiting stability. By comparison, the Volvo pipelayer has a wider gauge, lower center of gravity, and a lifting platform where the boom is mounted inboard of the track frame and closer to the machine’s centerline. This combination offers enhanced stability to work on slopes with much higher lift capacities than conventional equipment—up to 29% higher, according to Volvo CE.
The largest Volvo pipelayer model, the Volvo PL7015C, has a 152,000-kg (336,000-lb) maximum tipping lift capacity, a capacity 41% higher than the largest pipelaying side-based boom dozer. The Volvo pipelayer boom, car body, and roller frames also provide structural integrity to manage these higher loads.
Volvo pipelayers have significantly longer booms that range from 30 to 38 ft (9.1 to 11.6 m), depending on model size, as compared to typical dozer side-based booms of 20 to 28 ft (6.1 to 8.5 m). The pipelayer’s extra length facilitates higher hook height for better work positioning, and allows the equipment to work further away from the trench to avoid caving in side walls.
An onboard load management system enables the operator to better determine what can be safely picked up depending on the angle of the boom, the cab’s position relative to the tracks, and the incline on which the machine is operating. Load charts are constantly updated for 360°-rotation and infinite machine geometries up to a 35° grade slope. These factors are matched and coordinated to current operating conditions via a graphic display on a monitor in the cab, including a variety of warning and operational aids, such as load-indicating light bars located on the boom tips.
The Volvo pipelayer’s elevated cab and an asymmetric boom design provide it with enhanced visibility, and its wide gauge also allows it to straddle the trench if this suits the project layout. An anti-two-block device, designed to improve safety with auto kick-out at full lift, is standard.
Load positioning has been simplified with the Volvo pipelayer as compared with conventional machines, which often require jockeying the entire machine by twisting and turning the tracks, a method that can be time consuming, inaccurate, and unsafe. By contrast, Volvo’s pipelayers position their load smoothly by swinging the upper structure like an excavator, resulting in precise, efficient load positioning with increased productivity and safety. A mechanical, upper-structure swing lock is available for working on severe grades.
Positioning and directional changes are simplified by the excavator undercarriage system, which allows for counter-rotation of the tracks. High ground clearance allows the machine to work in rugged terrain and muddy conditions, and single and double grouser shoes are available to ensure solid footing in most conditions.
Their excavator-based construction platform also enables Volvo pipelayers to function as multi-purpose machines. For example, when not being used for laying pipe, the pipelayer can be quickly converted into a high-production excavator or used in applications that would ordinarily require a crane with heavy-lift capability.
Larger models of the pipelayer—the sizes that can be difficult to transport—are designed with variable gauge or easily removable track side frames, counterweights, and booms. The new equipment can self-disassemble and self-reassemble without the need for other lifting machine assistance, with the entire process taking less than one hour, according to Volvo CE.