Editor at Large: Visiting Cat’s new facilities in Athens, Ga.

If there’s a Caterpillar facility, we intend to visit it — whether it’s in Peoria, Ill., Tucson, Ariz., or (this week) Athens, Ga. Opened about a year ago, Cat’s Building Construction Productions Division facility in Athens is one of the only manufacturing facilities in America to make compact excavators; the state-of-the-art, 850,000-sq ft facility also produces small track-type tractors. For the next two days, Cat has invited trade journalists down to Athens to see the new facilities, talk new products and operate equipment. Um, count us in.

It was a beautiful day in Georgia, and Compact Equipment took the opportunity to talk about the F2 Series backhoe loaders, K2 small track type tractors, M Series small wheel loaders, small- and large-chassis skid steer loaders and lots of various work tools. And although we didn’t talk about mini excavators today, we’ll definitely be touring the plant tomorrow. Out of the machines we saw today, three big products stood out.

Track Type Tractors and Slope-Assist

A D5K2 track type tractor with Slope-Assist.

A D5K2 track type tractor with Slope-Assist.

Cat’s small track type tractors are pretty much badass. The new Cat D3K2, D4K2 and D5K2 Track Type Tractors all have a refined design that includes engines meeting Tier 4 Final emissions standards and new features and options that further enhance performance in utility and grading applications. The new models add customer value with such features as Automatic Traction-Control, Slope-Indicate, and (our favorite) Slope-Assist. Precision blade control for grading applications remains a primary design objective for K2 models. Instead of buying a $65,000 gps system, why not try a $6,500 system called Slope-Assist?

Slope Assist facilitates achieving the required main-fall by automatically maintaining pre-established blade angles. Consistent grades are attained more quickly with the system, fill materials are conserved, and less-experienced operators are more productive. The system is part of the Cat AccuGrade Ready attachment, allowing the system to be easily upgraded to 3D capability if needed, but it’s an amazing system all on its own.

D Series Loaders and Cool New Tracks

Kevin Coleman Cat Athens Ga

Cat’s Kevin Coleman talks about new track loader technology.

We love compact track loaders, and here’s a few more models to love. Four new D Series small-chassis models are the latest additions to the Cat compact track loader (CTL) and skid-steer loader (SSL) ranges: SSL models 226D and 232D; and CTL models 239D and 249D — all incorporating the design innovations of larger D Series machines, including a sealed/pressurized cab, electro-hydraulic controls, redesigned lift arms, premium seat choices and optional Advanced Display (available with rear-view camera). All use an electronic Cat C2.2 engine that meets Tier 4-Final/Stage IIIB emissions standards.

Our favorite model would be the 239D, with its suspended steel-embedded rubber track, replacing the 247B3 multi-terrain loader (MTL). It delivers lower owning and operating costs for machine owners not requiring the capabilities of the rubber-wheeled, softer track system of the MTL. Further advantages of the new small-chassis SSL models include a two-speed drive system with a top speed of 11 mph for the 226D and 232D and for the CTLs operating weights of less than 8,000 pounds for the 239D and 249D, allowing transport without a Commercial Driver’s License.

F2 Series Backhoe Loaders and Hydraulic Systems

Athens Ga Cat Editor at Large

Cat’s F2 Series models have an extremely powerful implement hydraulic system.

The new F2 Series Cat backhoe loaders includes the 416F2, 420F2, 430F2 and a model new to the range, the 415F2. The new F2 Series center-pivot models build on the solid performance, reliability and durability of their F Series predecessors with engines that meet Tier 4 Final emissions standards, new operator’s station, and added features and options that further enhance performance and operator productivity. The 420F2 and 430F2 continue to be available with both single-tilt and Integrated Tool Carrier (IT) front linkage, and four-wheel drive is standard for the 430F2 and available for other models.

All of the new F2 Series models have an extremely powerful implement hydraulic system, which uses a load-sensing, variable-displacement piston pump that provides full lifting and digging forces at all engine speeds and matches hydraulic flow to work demands for highly efficient operation. Pilot-operated joystick controls with in-cab pattern changers are standard on the 420F2 and 430F2. These controls are optional on the 415F2 and 416F2, which come standard with mechanical controls.

All new models can also be equipped with auxiliary hydraulics, including a third-function loader valve, six-function backhoe valve, and related lines. 420F2 IT and 430F2 IT machines have a standard hydraulic loader quick coupler. New for the IT models are twist-to-connect hydraulic quick disconnect fittings that can be connected under pressure. All models feature redesigned hose routing for extendible sticks, adding to overall reliability and durability.

Keith Gribbins is associate publisher of Compact Equipment.

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