An industry shift to servo controls for backhoes was one equipment manufacturer JCB bought into. The softer pushing and reduced arm throws required on servo controls led to a reduction in operator fatigue, and even more so when the controls were seat-mounted, says Jim Blower. "That's our big belief at JCB," says Blower, senior product manager at JCB's North American headquarters. "If you can keep an operator as comfortable as you possibly can, he's going to be more productive over the day. "The downside from the shift from manual controls, though, was a reduction in hydraulic function speed and operator feel to the tool.
With the newest upgrade to its backhoe loader product line, JCB focused on combining "the best of both worlds." An option on the each of the14FT, 15FT and 17FT models of the 3CX and 4CX backhoe loaders, the Easycontrol seat-mounted servo control system features the full-flow valve block and open hydraulic circuit associated with manual systems.
"In a typical servo system, and our Precision Controls System included, you have flow-sharing valve blocks, so there's only half the amount of oil that can ever go to one of the services," says Blower. "So, if you take that valve block out and put a full-flow valve block back in, which is what the manual machine has, you then increase the speed of the machine.
"When everyone went to servos, you lost speed and you lost operator feel, but you had the big benefit of more operator comfort," he says, "so you had the trade-off of one or the other. Now with Easycontrol, it's giving everything back. It's giving you all the performance back in the back end, plus the operator comfort."
Manual controls remain standard on the 3CX and the four-wheel-steer, four-equal-sized-tire 4CX backhoe loaders, but the Easycontrol option (not available on the entry-level 3C models) offers a lucrative alternative to contractors, says Blower. This is particularly so in North America, where JCB studies indicate 75 to 80 percent of backhoe loader use comes with the machine stationed and the operator swung around in his seat working the back end.
|3CX 14FT||84.6||2WD / 4WD||2WS||15,053|
*Models available with Easycontrol system
Source: Spec-Check.com Xpanded Specs (as of July / 09)
"If the operator can feel where the bucket is, then he's not going to break through that water pipe or gas line or whatever it may be that he is digging around. So, it is quite important for the operator to have that feel back in the controls," he says. "Working in cities around services, people would opt for the manual machine, because they had a little bit more control over it and they could feel where things were, but they wouldn’t have the comfort of servos. Now with these controls, you have the best of both worlds."
The increase in single service speed alone, be that working the stick, bucket or another attachment, translates into an overall 9-percent gain in full cycle time, says Blower.
"The analogy I use on that is it's like an automatic and a manual car: An automatic, it does it all for you; the manual, you have to do a little bit more, but if you do a little bit more, you'll get more performance out of it."