Thumb Design and Optimization for Backhoe Loader 2019-28-0109
Product Engineering organizations are committed to provide solutions with the right quality and value to customers. Value improvement and efficient product improvement are key considerations for product engineering.
In this paper, the Author summaries thumb design and optimization for backhoe loader. The project goal was to create an in-house thumb design. The backhoe thumb attachment was previously a proprietary design of a supplier. The supplier’s design had two major limitations, limited opportunity of design improvements for resolving customer issues and higher total cost. This paper covers details about overcoming these limitations.
Multiple variants of backhoe loaders use four different thumbs. Small and mid- range backhoe machine classes use 4-tine and 2-tine thumb depending upon customer applications. The design team targeted an external customer requirement of a more compact design and internal requirement of accelerating design improvement cycle time and reducing cost. To overcome these concerns, along with few more constraints, a full study of a new thumb design was conducted. Key constraints included compatibility to current design, maintain tip forces, and optimize for a compact design. Verification (FEA) of initial concepts were conducted and new Engineering Analysis Procedures (EAPs) were developed for both virtual and physical testing. Proto models of new thumbs were developed and validated with EAPs developed to understand robustness of design. The newly designed thumbs were then optimized based on actual strain data to make the design compact. With several design iterations, two new prototypes were developed in-house. These prototypes were tested for field durability, validation and manufacturing process improvements.
Important project achievements included a successful production launch of the first owned designed thumb, with significant total cost reduction, compact design optimized to cater customer needs and reduced part count. The project execution involved great communication and collaboration with Design, FEA PV&V, Marketing, Customer support, Prototype and Manufacturing teams. The author recommends conducting a feedback session with customers on the new design to understand if more improvements are necessary.