JCB’s new generation X Series excavators represent one of the company’s biggest R&D investments in its history.

In March, JCB announced its new X Series tracked excavators have started to roll off the production lines at JCB Heavy Products in England and are now being launched to customers around the world.

“The market for tracked excavators has grown enormously since JCB made its first one in 1965 and we now export these machines all over the world. The X Series is an evolutionary product, which also contains high levels of innovation,” said company Chairman Lord Anthony Bamford.

The company invested £110 million (CDN$198,196,997) as well as four years of research into developing its X Series excavators, which is designed to compete in a global tracked excavator market where almost 190,000 machines are sold every year.

“This is a massive investment and underlines just how serious JCB is in building its presence in the tracked excavator sector,” said Group CEO Graeme Macdonald.

“Over the last four years our design team has been developing a game-changing excavator, one that is ready to seize the opportunity offered by the period of growth the construction industry is currently experiencing.”

JCB excavator10,000 door slams

During the R&D phase, JCB benchmarked its leading competitors and collected more than 1,000 requirements for the machine from customers around the world.

“The operators have been at the heart of its development and they will find it extremely comfortable to use,” Bamford said. “While the cost of the development of the X Series is a big investment for a private company to make, we are very happy to do it because the market opportunity is huge.”

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As well, JCB completed extensive endurance testing of the machine, with every door opened and slammed shut more than 10,000 times to assess durability. Electronic test rigs were also used to test every electrical component. For the first time, JCB has put the entire 20-tonne excavator on an automotive-style shaker rig.

Central main boom

The X Series excavators have an upper structure that is 2.7 metres wide, 200 mm broader than their predecessors.

The additional space has allowed JCB’s designers to mount the main boom in the centre of the machine, rather than at an offset. This reduces stress on the slew bearing and increases accuracy for the operator when trenching. It also permits the use of larger buckets without impacting the tracks. On the right of the machine, the handrail has been mounted in-board of the structure to prevent damage.

However, if handrails are caught, they are now bolted in place, allowing replacement. The service doors are pressed double-skin steel, with welded framework for added rigidity. All tanks are now mounted inside the bodywork, to further reduce the risk of damage and the counterweight has been designed to prevent knocks.

There is easy access to a large tool box, with integral refuelling pump with filter, while the AdBlue tank is positioned under a separate cover, to prevent cross-contamination and to make it easier to refill.

CAE design

The X series excavators were designed using Computer Aided Engineering (CAE). However, the JCB team also used CAE to virtually build the machines. Before any parts were ordered from suppliers, the production line knew how to assemble the components, thanks in part to contributions from the staff on the assembly line.

As well, 42 per cent of the machine is now constructed as sub-assemblies off the main line, doubling the previous amount. This allows for additional quality inspections and reliability checks, while simplifying the main line.

JCB x series excavatorsThe operator environment and the cab were a major focus area during the design phase, resulting in a completely new structure, which will be used across the X series range. The cab is now 100 mm longer and a full one metre wide, making it 15 per cent larger overall than previous machines.

The cab incorporates the ROPS frame within the structure and has flat glazing all round. Inside the cab, the 220X boasts a 67dB(A) noise level down from 73dB(A) on the previous generation. The company has stayed with Kawasaki hydraulic pumps and Kayaba valves, but has opted for larger spools and a latest generation valve block for reduced hydraulic loss.

The diameter of the main hydraulic hose to and from the main hydraulic valve has increased in diameter from 19 to 25 mm, giving greater flow without increasing the speed of the oil. Maintaining the speed of the oil in increased diameter hoses, results in less wear and tear to increase hose life.