There are two main families of excavators, excavators equipped with wheels and those equipped with tracks, both of these configurations have their advantages and disadvantages and you will first have to determine which one is best suited to your needs.
Then you’ll need to determine if you need a “standard” excavator or a particular configuration. There are not many structural differences between the different excavators, even from one manufacturer to another, the excavator is a versatile machine and it is often sufficient to change its tool for the work that needs to be done. There are however some configurations adapted to particular conditions, for example:
- Demolition excavators have arms that have been extended to reach the top of the buildings with their demolition tools and their cab is generally protected from falling materials and can be tilted upwards to allow the operator to see where he or she is working.
- Zero tail swing excavators can be pivoted without protruding from the ground area of the machine, allowing them to work near walls without the risk of touching them. Walking excavators are equipped with articulated “legs” that enable them to work on steep or rough terrain.
- Multi-function excavators have an arm with additional joints to increase the range of possible movements and therefore the versatility of the machine.
- There are also road-rail versions intended for movement on rail networks, amphibious models for working on bodies of water etc.
The main selection criteria for an excavator is its size and power. The size of the machine is characterized by its operating weight (we are talking about a 10-tonne excavator for example). There is a wide range of sizes available, from less than one tonne for the smallest models to more than 100 tonnes for excavators used in surface mining.
You must choose an excavator adapted to your needs, a model that is too small might not meet the needs of the work to be done, a model that is too large might be too cumbersome and unnecessarily expensive. The weight of the excavator gives an overall idea of the size of the machine but it is important to ensure that the arm can reach the maximum distance at which it will have to work. In their technical documentation most manufacturers provide a chart representing the kinematics of the arm and therefore the maximum heights and depths it can reach.
Another important factor is the engine power which supplies the hydraulic unit which powers the arm and any tools mounted on it. It is more or less correlated with the size of the machine but can vary, a more powerful engine will be able to carry out more difficult jobs.
Most excavators have diesel engines, though in recent years we have seen the emergence of some hybrid diesel/electric engines equipped with energy recovery systems. This equipment is therefore subject to the anti-pollution standards in force in the countries where it will be used, the most well-known being the Tier Classification System in the United States and the European Emission Standards.
After establishing the main characteristics of the machine you need, the choice of an excavator can be made based on criteria such as the ergonomics of the driving position, the comfort or work assistance equipment or the noise level.