JCB develops remote-controlled excavator

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  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

A tailored demolition excavator which combines a JCB JS190 upper structure with a JS220LC undercarriage and can be remote-controlled in high-risk environments has been developed by JCB UK.

JCB develops remote-controlled excavator
The remote-controlled JCB excavator in action at Birmingham New Street Train Station, United Kingdom.

Created by JCB Heavy Products in conjunction with Birmingham-based specialist demolition contractor Coleman & Company and a local JCB dealer, the rubber-tracked 21-tonne excavator has the ability to deploy a 4-tonne multi-processor attachment without exceeding a gross weight of 25 tonnes.

The new excavator is working 20 hours a day on the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street Train Station and Grand Central shopping centre. It is removing existing reinforced concrete floors to create a void beneath the new atrium roof.

"Coleman is the principal demolition contractor working on the Birmingham New Street project and is now in its fifth year on site," JCB says. "The current phase sees the removal of 6000 tonnes of mass reinforced concrete. Some beams weigh as much as 80-90 tonnes and are 2.5 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep.

"Even outside on an industrial site, these would present a significant challenge – yet this project is taking place inside, directly beneath the newly constructed, multi-million dollar atrium steelwork structure which must be protected from all aspects of the demolition. It is also taking place within a live construction site while 140,000 people continue to travel through the station each day."

Coleman & Company technical manager Chris Holland says the company asked JCB to design a "bespoke" machine that could work in high risk and technically challenging environments.

"Nothing was ever an issue or problem," he says. "It was more a challenge the company rose to. This was very encouraging as the stakes are very high at New Street given we’ll be operating above 12 live train lines carrying thousands of passengers per day."

Once the machine has completed its estimated nine months on the station redevelopment it gives Coleman & Company a unique tool to use for highly complex demolition tasks, company contract support manager Malcolm Hurst says.

"The remote control machine gives Coleman & Company the option to operate in restricted and confined areas while the operator remains in a safe location," he says. "It can be used on demolition projects that are deemed too dangerous to risk an operator in the cab or in contaminated structures where human access is unsafe."

The operator of the remote control can work the machine while positioned in a mobile elevated work platform or cherry picker above the beam being demolished, allowing for close assessment of the task in hand. An integrated infrared laser fence restricts the unit’s operation to a designated safe zone, preventing it from operating too near the edge of the suspended floor.

In addition, JCB says the excavator features LED lighting for night vision, a non-biodegradable safe fuel system, triple articulated boom, range control, on-board auto fire-fighting equipment, on-board dust suppression and a jet-ski-style emergency stop pull cord. 

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