Merlo has a real spring in its step
In last week's issue we alluded, albeit briefly and without pictures, to the advent of the first 'proper' cab suspension for a tele- scopic handler.
Now, we bring you the complete story -- and ask Merlo's Peter Grant what prompted its development and what the likely prospects are for this and other innovations.
Though not the best-selling telehandler on the Irish market (its share is easily dwarfed by those of Manitou and JCB, the market leaders), Merlo is nonetheless a very well-known brand name. Thanks to a distinctive green livery and the provision of hydrostatic rather than torque converter transmissions, these machines stand out from run-of-the-mill handlers.
High duty cycles
Though only seen publicly in early 2007, Merlo first embarked on the development of cab suspension two years previously. Peter explained: "We noted that certain types of telehandler were being used for high-duty cycle applications. While machines in the construction sector might stand still for large portions of the day, some units in the agricultural and recycling sectors spend the whole day moving about -- ypically shuttling back and forth while loading or stacking.
"Driver comfort, and more especially WBV (Whole Body Vibration), is an important issue on these machines. While boom suspension (which Merlo offers on several models) is worthwhile, it mainly reduces pitching -- not vibration.
And besides, boom suspension is principally designed to cushion the load you're carrying -- not the driver.
"We also offer a type of electronic front axle suspension but, again, it is not a complete solution from the driver's perspective."
He continued: "That's what prompted us to look at other options. After examining cab suspension systems on tractors, we developed one of our own -- the first such system on a telescopic handler. It relies on both hydraulic and pneumatic components and is activated by simply flicking a switch inside the cab.
"The system's total range of travel is 110mm; as soon as it's engaged the cab lifts 60mm off its stops." According to Peter, cab suspension will prove most popular on heavier, higher duty cycle handlers working in situations where a wheeled loading shovel might otherwise be used. He also expects it to prove popular on some larger Turbofarmer models. The system is already standard on the new, industrial-spec 10t P55.9. It will be offered as an option on selected other models, though what exactly it will add to the asking price has not yet been confirmed.
Of course, cab suspension is only the latest in a string of innovations from this Italian manufacturer.
Since its origins, which supposedly stretch back to 1911, the firm has notched up several design 'firsts'. For example the now-familiar side-engine design was first seen on Merlo's Panoramic line-up, which was introduced in 1987.
The firm goes so far as to say: "The Panoramic models were the first telescopic handlers in the world with a side-mounted engine and a low boom hinge point at the rear." Of course, several other manufacturers have since adopted this build configuration."
And don't forget the trend-setting Multifarmer. First unveiled in 2000, this machine was the first production telehandler to feature a fully functioning three-point linkage and PTO at the rear. For the record, Merlo now produces more than 70 different models and has a turnover in excess of €270m.