Caterpillar’s next gen platform expands to three more mini excavators

CAT 303 Mini Excavator

Caterpillar has revamped three of its hydraulic mini excavators using its next generation platform. 

The new Cat 302.7 CR, 303 CR and 303.5 CR hydraulic mini excavators introduce industry-first features for the 2.7 to 3.5-tonne class of machines. 

The mini excavators are built on the next gen platform, which is designed to offer a consistent operator experience through the 1.5 to 10-tonne range. Each new model features stick steer, cruise control, operator adjustable settings and tilt-up canopy or cab as standard. 

“The next gen has been such an amazing success so far, and we expect these next three models to be the same,” said Greg Worley, Caterpillar’s market professional.

The three new machines use an expanded range of common parts throughout the line. An increase in parts commonality between machines means that replacement can cost as little as 25 per cent of previous repair costs. 

As well, the mini excavators are built with damage-resistant exterior panels to reduce parts inventory investment and lower repair costs. 

“Accidents happen. When you’re operating machines, side panels get damaged,” said Mark Perkes, a product application specialist with Caterpillar. “We have made it much more cost effective to make those repairs.”

Cat ensured the design of the new machine ensured simple maintenance procedures. For example, daily maintenance checks are quickly made from ground level through side doors.

“With this size of machine, a lot of customers want to service it themselves,” Worley said. “So, they can service it easily. If it’s easy to do, it will get done.” 

As well, a tilt-up cab design delivers easy access to components for servicing. 

“Getting this cab lifted up is so easy,” Perkes said. “I can get this fully raised in less than three minutes.” 

Increased service intervals mean the mini excavators spend more time on the job and less time in the workshop. Combined, these features lower total ownership costs up to 5 per cent compared to previous models.

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Improved travel and trenching

At the same time, design enhancements for the new 302.7 CR, 303 CR and 303.5 CR deliver up to 10 per cent more performance in travel and trenching. Upgrades to the hydraulic system improve lifting performance and cycle times, while customizable operator settings improve efficiency. 

The turbocharged Cat C1.1 Turbo engine powers the 302.7 CR and 303 CR models, while the 303.5 CR is powered by the Cat C1.7. Both engines meet Tier 4 Final emissions standards and offer 23.6 hp net power. Standard auto idle and auto engine shutdown help to conserve fuel usage at the site for more affordable operation. 

Compact radius swing

The mini hydraulic excavators feature a compact radius swing that reduces overhang when working to the side, allowing the machines to optimize performance in confined spaces. 

Fixed undercarriage widths for the 302.7 CR, 303 CR and 303.5 CR of 1.5 metres, 1.55 metres and 1.78 metres respectively, deliver the right balance of job site accessibility and stability for lifting performance. An expandable undercarriage option for the 302.7 CR allows the operator to hydraulically retract track width to 1.35 metres for fitting into confined spaces and then expand the width to 1.78 metres to improve digging and lifting stability. 

Interchangeable counterweight packages enable customers to tailor machine weight to job requirements, offering the balance between low ground pressure and lifting performance. The Light counterweight option adds 100 kg to the machine, while the Extra adds 250 kg. 

Stick configurations

All three Next Gen models offer both standard and long-stick configurations to increase machine versatility. Standard digging depths range from 2.45 metres to 2.8 metres, while the long stick configuration allows the machines to reach from 2.65 metre to 3.1metre depths. The standard dozer blade further increases machine flexibility to handle backfilling and grading tasks. It features ample above and below-grade travel and has a standard float function for easy cleanup.

Load-sensing hydraulics with variable displacement pump provides oil flow reaching 100 litres per minute while saving fuel. High main-relief pressures, coupled with flow rates, generates the hydraulic capacity for high digging and lifting forces and more efficient use of a range of attachments. Complete with quick-disconnect lines, the standard auxiliary system provides the choice of one-way, two-way or continuous flow. 

In the cab

The new 302.7 CR, 303 CR and 303.5 CR offer enhanced machine security options, with both a passcode and Bluetooth key start available. Offering an advanced touchscreen option, the large next generation display provides intuitive machine function control and easy monitoring of critical operating parameters, such as fuel level, coolant temperature and maintenance records. 

“We have the same standard next gen monitor on our 1.5 tonne machines, all the way up to our 10-tonne machine,” Worley said. “It’s commonality for our customers and operators. They’re not reinventing the wheel each time they move from machine to machine.”

Stick steer

An industry-exclusive Cat Stick Steer System simplifies machine control, and, at the touch of a button, the operator switches from conventional lever/foot-pedal steering controls to low-effort joystick operation. Two travel ranges with speeds reaching 2.8 mph (4.5 km/h) help to facilitate moving around the jobsite, and standard cruise control minimizes operator interaction when traveling longer distances between work locations.

Unique to their respective classes, the mini excavators offer the choice between a canopy or cab. The sealed and pressurized cab offers a clean and quiet environment for the operator and can be equipped with heating and air conditioning. 

“For many of our customers, this cab is their office for eight hours a day,” Worley said.