Automotive

BMW and John Deere imagine the backhoe of the future

BMW and John Deere imagine the...
The Designworks concept backhoe was unveiled at Las Vegas this week
The Designworks concept backhoe was unveiled at Las Vegas this week
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The Designworks concept backhoe is designed for a 20 oercent weight savings
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The Designworks concept backhoe is designed for a 20 oercent weight savings
The Designworks concept backhoe was unveiled at Las Vegas this week
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The Designworks concept backhoe was unveiled at Las Vegas this week

When someone says "concept vehicle" construction equipment rarely comes to mind, but that hasn't stopped BMW Group subsidiary Designworks and John Deere turning their collective crystal ball on the humble backhoe. The backhoe of the future concept uses a more flexible, lightweight design combined with machine intelligence to produce a digger for tomorrow's world market.

As anyone who has operated a backhoe can tell you, they may be incredible machines for digging trenches, but they are not the easiest things in the world to handle. The controls are like something out of a tank, working the levers is like stirring coal, they aren't the greatest in tight corners, the seat is often about as comfortable as one off a Willys Jeep, and the cabin, if it has one, is a one-size-fits-all that doesn't fit any climate.

The Designworks concept backhoe, which was revealed this week at CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas, aims to reduce the vehicle weight by at least 20 percent over current equipment by means of a lightweight metal exoskeleton, and to reduce its environmental impact by ten percent. It's supposed to be less expensive to manufacture, and has a flexible design to meet the needs of regional markets, because the perfect backhoe for the Alaskan tundra isn't the perfect one for the jungles of Malaysia.

The Designworks concept backhoe is designed for a 20 oercent weight savings
The Designworks concept backhoe is designed for a 20 oercent weight savings

The concept has a suspended hybrid powertrain for lighter weight and greater efficiency, a lower center of gravity for greater stability and visibility, forward stabilizers and an extended wheelbase with airless radial tires, and electric drive with four-wheel steering for better maneuverability in tight quarters.

Inside, the operator's station is easy to get into and has fewer obstructions and more room. In addition, the seat and controls are isolated from the Rollover Protective Structure for a smoother ride with less noise and vibration.

The intelligent controls feature augmented interfaces for easier operation and predictive maintenance capabilities to reduce downtime, as well as enabling real-time training and better communications with project supervisors.

"We wanted to stretch and challenge ourselves to innovate in new ways," says Doug Meyer, global director of product engineering, John Deere Construction & Forestry. "We worked closely with our backhoe customers to apply their input, and we leveraged jobsite visits and qualitative research to ensure the Fixstern solutions address future customer and industry needs in performance, efficiency, and environmental compliance."

Source: BMW Group

5 comments
5 comments
S Michael
Not very imaginative or innovative. If these two companies can't do better than this, then leave it alone, they work fine just the way they are now.
LarryWolf
If it's not pure electric then it's not futuristic and innovative enough.
Daishi
Sometimes it's useful to get a design from people outside who don't design backhoes for fresh ideas. Apple and Goggle turned the mobile phone industry on its head. Nest made my old thermostats feel like some kind of artifact from the 1930's nobody bothered to improve on. Another thing is a backhoe, bulldozer, and excavator are all separate equipment. It might be possible to build something that blurs the line between them a bit more to save buying multiple machines. I think the tires used here are about drawing attention that "this is a concept vehicle" rather than being proposed for the final design. The structure in those tires would see a lot of wear and the holes would fill with dirt/rock etc. that wouldn't help. I'd bet on traditional tires over those for this application.
Bruce H. Anderson
The rear stabilizers look to be too far forward. The are long, and made of bent metal, so I would question how they will hold up in the real world (compared to the typical short, stout units that are typical). Even when they are down they look to have their centerline at or in front of the rear axle, instead of behind where a proper pivot point needs to be. If they build it, it will fail.
MQ
Why steal Caterpillars, or is that Tonka's colour scheme..
Will make a great kids toy.
Lightweight and cool usually doesn't do so well on a mine site, maybe will do better on wall street though.. Should clean up.