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Hill wins Queen’s Award for TEFRA safety coupler

The TEFRA double-locking hydraulic coupler for excavators has won the 2014 Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation for its designer and manufacturer, Hill Engineering.

The coupler, which has helped to transform health and safety procedures on construction sites, has a number of safety features that — among other things — prevent attachment removal in unsafe conditions and keep the front and rear hooks in position in the event of a hydraulic failure.

Hill Engineering is based in Northern Ireland and exports the TEFRA system across Europe, Australia and the United States. The product’s success has been such that Hill has doubled its workforce since its introduction in 2011.

The Tefra is suitable for excavators ranging from 3 to 50 tonnes to suit most makes and models, with hitches up to 100 tonnes available upon request, and is fully compliant with all expected key provisions of the forthcoming new European (EN474) and proposed global ISO 13031 safety standards.

“I am delighted that our innovation and commercial success has been recognized with a Queen’s Award,” Hill Engineering Managing Director Ian Hill says. “It reflects our commitment to innovation and clearly demonstrates that Hill Engineering is a global player with innovation at the heart of the company.  It is a tremendous achievement for the company, especially in our 20th year.

 “Safety is a huge issue on construction sites with numerous fatalities and many serious accidents attributed to the incorrect use of semi-automatic couplers,” he says. “Our innovative TEFRA, which is fully automatic, has been designed to eliminate such accidents.

“The innovation behind TEFRA is the clever and uncomplicated design of the product which has improved the safety of excavator machines on construction sites and, with only three moving parts, has made this coupler the most reliable and robust on the market.”

Innovative technology

Hill’s Engineering Manager, Neal Loughran, says the innovation behind the TEFRA technology lies in bringing together a number of elements that each provides its own safety features.

Curved cast coupler hooks

The two cast coupler hooks have unique ‘curved’ designs that work together to fully enclose both attachment pins and provide positive self-locking in all operating conditions.

“This patented load bearing design has the inherent strength specifically in cast components to take the weight of the attachment in failure mode or if the operator misconnects the rear hook,” Loughran says.

“A single hydraulic cylinder operates both hooks thus eliminating unnecessary complexity and reducing the number of moving parts. A brand new design to meet Hill’s specific requirements, this cylinder incorporates the patented Hill Smart Valve technology. There is no external pipe work and as such no risk of damage or failure. The hydraulic hose connections feature different thread sizes to eliminate the risk of incorrect installation.”

Hill Smart Valve

 “The Hill Smart Valve is a unique safety feature which prevents attachment removal in unsafe conditions,” Loughran says. “It works by recognising the correct/safe coupler orientation before permitting the release sequence to commence. The Smart Valve is totally enclosed within the cylinder and as such cannot be affected by contamination and requires no routine maintenance.”

Active Protection System

This is a fully Independent secondary locking system with two parts: A coil spring around the cylinder that ensures the rear hook remains in the correct position in the event of a hydraulic failure; and a leaf spring to do the same for the front hook.

“The springs do not take the weight of the attachment,” Loughran says. “This is done by the coupler hooks. They are there solely to keep the hooks correctly located. In addition, the pressure exerted by the springs provides a ‘Return to Safe’ feature ensuring that the hooks always remain in, or return to, the closed position.”

TEFRA is imported to Australia by RD Williams and available from Queensland Rock Breakers, Total Rockbreaking Solutions in WA and Walkers Hammers in Victoria.


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