Caterpillar next-gen mini hydraulic excavator, skid steer, compact track loaders
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The next-generation 306 mini hydraulic excavator is Caterpillar’s entry in the 6-ton class. (Caterpillar)

Caterpillar launches next-gen mini hydraulic excavator, skid steer and compact track loaders

Covering about 2.5 million ft2 and including roughly 2,800 exhibitors, the triennial ConExpo-Con/Agg event boasts a larger footprint for 2020.

Covering about 2.5 million ft2 and including roughly 2,800 exhibitors, the triennial ConExpo-Con/Agg event boasts an even-larger footprint for 2020 with the addition of the Festival Grounds. As one of the major exhibitors at North America’s largest construction tradeshow, taking place March 10-14 in Las Vegas, Caterpillar will have a fairly significant footprint of its own, filled with new equipment featuring the company’s latest technology developments. A few of the machines likely to be on display were revealed at an October 2019 press event in Clayton, NC.

Responding to the voice of the customer and dealer feedback, Caterpillar’s next-generation 306 mini hydraulic excavator is the company’s entry in the 6-ton class. The new mini excavator features heavy-duty main structures, a fuel-efficient C2.4 turbodiesel, load-sensing hydraulics, spacious cab and the Cat Stick Steer system. It shares a similar controls layout and common components with the full line of Cat Next Generation mini excavators to simplify training, offer quick adaptation for operation and lower owning/operating costs.

“In the lineup for Caterpillar going from a 5.5- to a 6-ton, we made some size changes, some improvements, and made it basically a larger machine,” Jason Becker, mini excavator marketing manager, said during the Clayton press event. Powering the 306 CR is the Cat C2.4 engine rated at 55.9 net hp (41.7 kW) with turbodiesel particulate filter, which meets U.S. EPA Tier 4 Final/Stage V emission standards. Cat says automatic engine idle and shutdown features help to reduce fuel consumption.

Industry-first features
Standard on the 306, and what Cat claims are industry-first features, are the stick-steer system, cruise control, a next-gen LCD screen and expanded applications like high flow and XTC (extra tool carrier). “With stick steer, for the first time you’re going to be able to push a button in the left joystick and suddenly all the travel components happen with your left hand, just like a skid steer. A lot of our customers are used to running skid steers and mini excavators. This is going to make it that much easier for them to run them,” said Mark Perkes, product application specialist for Caterpillar. Cruise control works the same as in a car or truck. The operator can push a button and the machine will continue to travel across the job site. It is also capable of making steering corrections.

The next-gen LCD monitor offers functionalities that can help Caterpillar’s customers assist their operators. They can fine tune the new 306 by slowing it down and speeding it up, Perkes said, adding that customers also wanted to be able to answer phone calls through the monitors. “They’re having to line up the next appointment, call suppliers. This is something that’s going to help them keep their business going even when they’re operating.”

The 306 offers straight-blade, angled-blade and XTC configurations that further expand the flexibility of the new mini excavator. Featuring travel, above- and below-grade operation, float function and “dig-to-blade” operation, the machine’s blade can handle loose material in backfilling and grading applications. Front shovel operation can be accomplished with both pin-on and coupler-mounted buckets.

“An XTC version typically is used for somebody that wants to do a lot of things, but only has one machine or one operator,” Becker shared during a demo of the 306. He explained that the operator can dig, load the material and haul it out—all with one machine, which he said was not previously possible on an excavator. “If you wanted to move the dirt out, you had to either swing it, load it into a truck, or load it into some other machine,” he added.

With its long-stick option, the 306 CR delivers a maximum dig depth of 162 in. (4115 mm) and 15,821-lb (7175-kg) maximum operating weight when equipped with the sealed and pressurized cab. A canopy alternative to the pressurized cab will be available for customers in 2020. Built with a swing boom, this next-gen mini excavator’s compact radius design provides a 58-in. (1475-mm) tail swing with counterweight for working close to obstructions.

The new Cat 306 CR delivers what the company claims to be “class-leading lift performance” of up to 7,839 lb (3,555 kg) at a 9.8-ft (3-m) radius. Enhanced uphill swing torque and increased cycle times provide greater productivity and efficiency. According to Caterpillar, the 306 was set to go into production in November and begin shipping in December 2019.

D3 Series loaders
Caterpillar also showcased its recently released D3 Series skid steer loader (SSL) and compact track loader (CTL) models—16 of them in the series—at its Clayton facility in October. These new machines advance the D and D2 Series’ reputation for quality, comfort, and performance and deliver improvements in operator experience and track loader stability.

An industry first according to Cat, the D3 Series models support a line of new Smart Attachments. Smart technology on the machine couples with the attachment to work in concert. “So, what does ‘smart’ really mean? The first thing it means is recognition. When this attachment is connected to the machine, the machine recognizes, ‘Hey, smart attachment, what happens next?’ Then it tailors the controls to the attachment that it is actually connected to,” Cat’s SSL/CTL product expert Kevin Coleman explained during a demo of the smart backhoe attachment. “And then it gives you dedicated control and informational screens. So, it’s recognition, tailored controls and informational and controlled screens on the monitor.”

Coleman went on to explain additional functionality of the advanced control features. “You get in a skid steer, you drive, you lift, you lower, that’s already there. But the smart attachment, that means I’m going to be able to tailor those controls to now become backhoe controls if I’m a backhoe-control guy or they can be excavator-style controls if I’m an excavator guy,” he said. “I can easily switch between that attachment control mode where I’m controlling the boom, stick, bucket, all of those things. With a click of a button, I can pop out of that and now I’m back into machine control mode. I can reposition, carry the attachment across the job site, switch out the attendant—whatever I need to do to make this a very portable solution.”

The D3 SSL is equipped with an enclosed cab with a wider-opening door. Media were able to see the one-piece sealed and pressurized cab on a tour of Cat’s Sanford, NC, plant where the SSL is built. It allows operators to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter and helps to keep inclement weather and flying debris at bay.

The new Cat D3 Series CTLs deliver improved operating stability while handling heavy loads, grading or truck loading. Changes to the undercarriage frame and torsion axles reduce machine pitching and rocking, while still offering ride comfort. All Cat D3 Series CTLs feature standard two-speed travel to improve performance at the jobsite. The Cat 279D3 and 289D3 loaders have an 8.4 mph (13.6 km/h) top-end ground speed, a 20% increase over their D Series counterparts. The Cat 239D3 and 249D3 models now are built with 2-speed transmission as standard, versus the previous single speed.

Also included in the D3 series CTL family is the new purpose-built Cat 299D3 XE Land Management CTL. The 299D3 XE Land Management is designed for demanding vegetation-management applications, such as mulching, brush cutting, vegetation control and mowing. For powering high-production hydromechanical attachments like mulching heads, this machine offers a turbocharged 110 gross hp (82 kW) Cat C3.8 engine that combines with a 40 gal/min (150 L/min) high-flow/high-pressure auxiliary hydraulic system, producing a hydraulic horsepower rating of 94 hp (70 kW).

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