Called “Project Minotaur,” the Case DL450 compact dozer loader is a “first-of-its-kind” machine that combines the footprint and performance of a compact track loader (CTL) with the power and dozing characteristics of a bulldozer. The crossover concept was revealed at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2017, where Case Construction Equipment conducted extensive focus groups with contractors to help determine how the machine can be further refined for production. The company would not confirm a launch date.
“Unlike concept vehicles that you see from other OEMs, which are simply meant to create a reaction, Project Minotaur is very practical evolution of two product lines that will provide added machine flexibility to those in the residential and commercial construction industries,” Scott Harris, vice president – North America, Case Construction Equipment, said at the machine's reveal in Las Vegas. “It could also be a transformational piece of equipment for landscapers and other small to midsize contractors looking to add greater earthmoving power and precision to their operations.”
The machine’s platform runs all of the attachments that a contractor might currently own for skid steers and CTLs.
“Contractors now have one machine on site that handles all of these items,” Harris said.
C-Frame interface the core feature
How is this new machine different than a CTL matched with a dozer blade attachment? The answer is a new C-Frame dozer interface that pins directly into the chassis of the machine. This setup provides the stability and smooth operating plane of a CTL, and ensures that operating power and stresses are channeled through the machine’s chassis and not its loader arms.
The C-Frame, which is one of the more than 30 pending patents stemming from the project, can be unpinned from the chassis and disconnected like any other attachment, allowing the machine to perform like a standard CTL.
“The problem with dozer attachments common with CTLs and skid steers—while effective in specific operations—is that they channel all operating stress through the coupler and the loader arms, and are really only suitable for groundline work,” said John Dotto, brand marketing manager, CASE Construction Equipment. “This affects performance and adds wear/stress to those components. The operator gets true dozing performance with this machine—no arm float, a consistent plane and true 6-way blade performance through the machine’s new controls.”
Counterweight has been added to the machine, and the undercarriage features steel tracks and grousers “for added bite and pushing force,” Harris said. Other enhancements include a fifth roller for better traction—compared to the standard four on a CTL—and greater ground clearance, at 13 in (33 cm), to reduce the likelihood of drag.
A rear ripper assembly increases functionality without sacrificing access to daily service points.
Proven frame, with some tweaks
“Project Minotaur” was conceived between the Case skid steer manufacturing plant in Wichita, KS, and CNH Industrial’s research and development center in Burr Ridge, IL.
“It’s a project that’s more or less bridged the gap between last ConExpo [in 2014] and here. It’s been in development for a couple years,” Dotto told Truck & Off-Highway Engineering. “The task was given to the engineering group to find a solution for that contractor that’s using a large track loader to do a lot of earthmoving and pushing. So it started as a brainstorming project in the Wichita design and engineering group.”
The DL450 combines current and legacy technologies and designs to create a new product category, Harris said. The frame of the machine is similar to that of a current TV380 compact tractor, the largest and most powerful CTL in the Case family, but has been further increased in size to handle the greater load.
The frame is based off of a vertical lift machine, but “Case engineers wanted to build the pushing power and the frame strength of a radial-lift machine into the design,” Harris said. “So the machine marries that TV380 style frame with a radial-lift loader arm design similar to the Case legacy 465 skid steer.”
Another inspiration for this machine was the old 450 Series Case dozers, according to Dotto. “Our engineers focused on building performance and operating characteristics similar to that platform into this machine. Early indications show that they’ve accomplished this, with an anticipated drawbar pull of around 21,000 lb,” he said.
Cab and controls
The cab and controls inside the machine are similar to what's in current CTLs and skid steers—and dozers. Similar to ISO controls, forward and reverse travel and steering is controlled with the left hand. Boom and bucket controls are manipulated with the right. Those same controls in the right hand control the lift angle and tilt of the 6-way dozer blade.
At least one of the pending patents involves the changeover from CTL operation to dozer. “Where you’d normally see an ISO/H-pattern changeover switch in a CTL, you’re going to see an ISO to dozer control switch on the DL450,” Dotto said.
“If you have standard CTL sticks in there, you’re not quite dozing because you don’t have all the six-way ability,” he continued. “So that’s why we threw in the dozer-style controls. The dozer controls that we’re using are from our 1150 and up series dozers, a 90-inch blade with the Leica Geosystems 3D grade control system.”
Dozer control features such as blade shake and pitch adjustment will be incorporated. Feedback from the focus groups also will help determine “what the future brings for Project Minotaur with grade control options,” Dotto said.
“We see this [new machine] as something that will help contractors achieve ideal utilization rates and simplify the footprint of equipment they deploy to a site,” he said.