Cat's all-new wheel loader gets all the right stuff

  • 01-Jun-2011 09:12 EDT
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Cat's 980K features a new load-sensing hydraulic system that automatically directs the right amount of flow to the implements based on operating conditions.

Caterpillar engineers have designed a variety of new features into its all-new 980K wheel loader, mainly to enhance and improve attributes that include productivity, reliability, performance, and fuel efficiency.

In terms of productivity and safety, Cat began with the operator. The 980K features a new operator station, with steps that have a greater inclination angle than the H Series for easier access to the cab. Cat describes the step design as making it "feel more like walking up a staircase than climbing a ladder" to get into the cab.

A wider door opening, well-placed grab bars, and a new front-hinged door that can be opened and closed while seated allow for easy entry and exit. Left and right sliding windows can be opened and closed with one hand while seated, making it easier to communicate with people on the ground.

A streamlined four-post ROPS design and a new operator position that has been moved slightly forward enhance visibility to the front and sides, while a standard rear-view camera with large color monitor enhances visibility to the back of the machines.

Standard with the 980K is what Cat says is "a new low-effort electrohydraulic joystick steering system" that allows operators to work in an ergonomically neutral position with both arms resting on wide, padded, adjustable armrests. The steering system has an exclusive force-feedback feature that automatically increases joystick effort as ground speed increases. This improves steering control and comfort, especially at higher speeds. The joystick moves side to side; its angle mirrors the machine’s articulation angle.

An optional electrohydraulic steering wheel system will be available from the factory several months after the 980K goes into production. It too senses ground speed and automatically adjusts steering effort to improve controllability and comfort at higher speeds. Full machine articulation can be accomplished by rotating the wheel approximately 330˚, compared to conventional steering wheels that can require two-and-one-half to five or more full turns to achieve full articulation. Retrofit kits will be available for the joystick and steering wheel systems, so dealers and equipment owners can change systems as required.

The operator station also features new viscous cab mounts that reduce noise and vibration, an automatic climate control that adjusts temperature and fan speed to the operator’s preferred setting, and a new center display panel with five analog-like gauges and a large text box that displays in-language messages. 

Two new membrane switch panels are located on the front right ROPS post. The large switches can be easily activated when wearing gloves. LEDs and an audible “click” let the operator know when the switches have been activated. Optional heated and powered mirrors are available, as well as AM/FM radios with CD players along with a standard MP3 jack and three 12-V power outlets.

Developed especially for production loading, standard Performance Series Buckets on the 980K are said to deliver faster fill times and better material retention, reducing cycle time and improving productivity and fuel efficiency. The loader accommodates buckets from 5.25 to 16 yd³ (4 to 12.2 m³); other work tools include specialty buckets, pallet forks, mill yard and logging forks, material handling arms, rakes, and plows.

A new load-sensing hydraulic system automatically directs the right amount of flow to the implements based on operating conditions. Fuel consumption is reduced because the hydraulic pumps only produce required flow. Heat generation is also reduced, which decreases cooling requirements and average fan speed, resulting in additional fuel savings.

The new hydraulic system also allows parallel flow to lift, tilt, and auxiliary hydraulics, so the functions can be performed simultaneously. In bucket loading, for example, the operator can lift and tilt at the same time for faster, smoother, more fuel-efficient loading. Other applications requiring hydro mechanical work tools also benefit from simultaneous operation of hydraulic functions.

Concurrent with the change to load-sensing hydraulics, the 980K’s lift and tilt forces have been increased by 25% and 16% respectively, reducing bucket loading times and increasing fill factors. Coupled with the standard buckets, Cat says these changes are an example of deep systems integration during equipment design.

A Tier 4 Interim and Stage IIIB-compliant C13 ACERT engine powers the 980K. The 369-hp (275-kW) engine is equipped with a suite of technologies that includes an upgraded ADEM 4 control module and an enhanced MEUI-C fuel system. A Cat Clean Emissions Module is securely mounted on its own platform above the engine and contains a diesel oxidation catalyst, diesel particulate filter, and Cat Regeneration System. Regeneration can be set to take place automatically so that it does not interrupt the machine work cycle, and it can be initiated manually by the operator when preferred.

The 980K can be equipped with a new optional lock-up clutch torque converter. It is automatically activated in second through fourth gear and, when locked, operates like a direct-drive system. This improves productivity and reduces fuel consumption in applications with many load-and-carry and ramp-duty cycles.

Another improvement to the drivetrain is new shifting logic for downshifting into first gear. The downshift now occurs based on the machine’s torque requirements instead of ground speed, thereby enabling operators to use the automatic transmission mode in first through fourth gears. This simplifies operation, reduces dig times, and improves fuel efficiency. Transmission speed shifts are also significantly smoother due to this new shifting strategy that reduces torque losses while shifting. The result is faster acceleration, better ramp climbing performance, and improved shift quality.

Cat's K Series loaders retain the one-piece tilting hood introduced with the G Series. However, the rear portion of the hood now incorporates a clamshell design that allows quick access to the engine oil dipstick, oil fill, fuel fill, and cooler cores for cleaning.

New fold-back external mirrors allow easier access to a convenient step near the top of the loader tower and a redesigned window-cleaning platform that improves visibility to work tools. The full coverage grab bar around the roof cap provides a secure hand-hold when cleaning windows, replacing wiper blades, or inspecting lights. Two ground-level service centers for hydraulic and electrical components permit faster, more convenient maintenance.

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