Mini but mighty: Cat’s next generation mini excavators

Designed with customer experience at its core, Cat’s next-generation range of 1-to-2-tonne mini hydraulic excavators brings industry-first features that are tailored to provide operators with optimal performance, versatility and safety on any construction site. 

The ability to seamlessly manoeuvre a tight construction site while able to meet the heavy lifting requirements of the job at hand – figuratively and literally – is an admirable quality in any mobile plant. For Cat, its “next-generation” mini excavator range is poised to lift the standard of peak performance for small, but efficient machinery in the Australian construction sector.

Available to the market as of February this year, Caterpillar’s new hydraulic excavator line-up is designed with best performance, versatility, safety, operator convenience and affordability in mind.

Coming in the smallest possible packages for 1-to-2-tonne class machines, the model range – the 301.5, 301.6, 301.7 CR, 301.8 and 302 CR – has minimum operating weights ranging from 1575 to 2045 kilograms, with weights increasing to 1760 to 2200 kilograms, depending on machine configuration.

The range includes standard dig depths of between 2340 millimetres to 2370 millimetres depending on the model, as well as an available long stick increase depth of 2540 or 2570 millimetres.

With the new models also utilising the Cat designed and built C1.1 engine – a three-cylinder diesel rated at 14.3 kilowatts and 16.1 gross kilowatts meeting Tier 4 Final/Stage emissions regulations – they provide operators with significant increases in engine power and performance over previous models.

Not only does the Cat C1.1 engine enhance fuel efficiency through engine idle control and automatic shutdown systems for the mini excavators, but it delivers a consistent performance through a wide speed range – embodying the phrase “small but mighty”.

While the standard technical capabilities of the new Cat mini excavator range prove it to be a powerhouse addition to the Australian and New Zealand construction markets, it is the new premium and industry-first features of the machines that give them a major point of difference.

Power on demand

The next-generation mini excavators use a load-sensing hydraulic system with an electronically controlled variable piston pump capable of oil flows up to 66 litres per minute. To aid in machine efficiency and fuel savings, the oil flow rates, coupled with high main-relief pressures, arms the new models with the capacity to generate high digging and lifting forces.

The hydraulic system gives the range the ability to manage a variety of power attachments. Additionally, the LCD monitor can be used to set to fine, normal and aggressive modes, giving operators the ability to match machine responsiveness with job requirements.

The Cat coupler design also allows operators to reverse attachments for front shovel operation, a capability that lends an extra measure of precision when digging around utilities.

The dozer blade on the machines features ample travel, above and below ground level, has a float function and is designed to allow “dig-to-blade” operation for more efficient handling of loose materials. This, combined with the stick-steer function on the machines – what Cat calls “a new way to move” – allows the machines to handle backfilling and grading tasks easily.

The stick-steer system is exclusive for the next-generation mini excavator models. It allows the operator to control tracks using the left-hand joystick control at the touch of a button, providing the benefit of less effort and improved control. Complementing the stick-steer functionality is an automatic two-speed travel that speeds up machine positioning and control.

Tailored for operator comfort and efficiency

The premium technical features of the new Cat mini excavator range are complemented by their tailored, engineered approach to suit the varying requirements of operators across the wider construction sector.

Model design emphasises comfort, convenience and operator safety, particularly through the cab – standard on the 301.6 and optional on the 301.8 and 302 CR.

The cab, with large glass areas on its sides and rear, including a skylight for visibility, is pressurised and sealed to minimise dust and noise intrusion and creates an in-cab cooling environment.

The operating consoles are designed to be intuitive, with a pattern changer that allows operators to select their preferred system between excavator and backhoe pattern. LCD monitors provide easy-to-read machine information and feature a jog dial for simple navigation and interaction with the monitor.

The machine security system is standard on all models and includes a key combined with operator pass code or an optional push-to-start button with a Bluetooth-enabled fob for automatic key recognition.

Likewise, the models come with various options for protective structures for operator and machine, including ROPS, TOPS and Top Guard – Level II – all designed to provide and facilitate a safe working environment on site.

The machine controls are protected via a hydraulic lock out with and boom lights help illuminate the work area. Optional LED lights on the front and rear of the machines also help to further enhance visibility.

The range is also engineered with easy serviceability and transportation.

Expandable undercarriages come standard on the machines, which enables them to be narrowed and allow the machines to enter work sites through restricted access points. The next-generation models also feature accessible maintenance points at ground level, while the battery is maintenance-free.

The tilt-up cab allows access to major hydraulic components by simply removing two retaining bolts and lifting the cab, which can be completed by a single person in under five minutes with the inclusion of a gas strut.

With myriad quality and capabilities that emphasise power and productivity, the next generation mini excavators bring the term “small but mighty” to the forefront for Australia’s construction sector.