7 different types of excavators and their uses



A crawler excavator. PHOTO | TO FILE

Excavators are earth moving vehicles equipped with a rotating cab, arm, boom, bucket, and rotating tracks or wheels. They are commonplace on construction sites.

Different types of excavators are used to perform a variety of construction and engineering tasks – from building highways to mining and demolishing condemned buildings.

Here are seven popular types of excavators.

1. Crawler excavators

Hailed as the ultimate digging tool, crawler excavators – also known as standard or compact excavators – are an integral part of any heavy construction job.

A crawler excavator is easily identifiable because it operates on two rotating tracks instead of wheels – more or less like a military tank does.

It is mainly used in heavy construction work.

Crawler excavators are designed for digging, picking up and moving debris and are primarily used in the excavation of foundations, trenches and holes.

They are also used for dredging, grading, landscaping and demolition.

The machines use hydraulic mechanisms to lift heavy debris on site.

Although slower than wheeled excavators, the crawler chassis of crawler excavator types makes them more stable and ideal for sites in areas with rough terrain.

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Other accessories can be incorporated to adapt the track to a crushing, drilling, grapple, lifting and cutting machine, increasing its usefulness on the job site.

2. Wheel excavators

Wheeled excavators are designed to work as crawler excavators only if they are equipped with wheels instead of tracks.

A wheel excavator. PHOTO | TO FILE

They are faster than crawler excavators and can easily move over asphalt or concrete.

Since they have less traction than crawler excavators, these types of excavators are not suitable for sites with rough terrain as well as places with soft soils or mud.

3. Dragline excavators

These types of excavators come in huge sizes and are designed to work differently.

They use a lift cable system and dragline to raise and lower the buckets and drag them to the operator. With a digging depth of 65 meters, dragline excavators are ideal for digging underwater.

A dragline shovel
A dragline excavator. PHOTO | TO FILE

These machines are mainly used for surface mining, deep pile driving, harbor construction, road excavation and massive underwater operations.

Due to their bulk, dragline excavators are often assembled on site.

4. Skid Steers

Unlike conventional hydraulic excavators, skid steer loaders have booms and buckets turned away from the operator, allowing the attachment to reach the cab instead of surrounding it.

This makes them ideal for tight areas or sites with limited spaces.

A compact loader. PHOTO | TO FILE

Skid steer loaders are often used for small tasks such as site cleaning, debris removal, digging swimming pools, etc. where space is limited and therefore requires delicate maneuvering.

5. Suction shovels

Also known as suction excavators, suction excavators are equipped with a suction hose that works in the same way as a pressure vacuum.

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Using a built-in water jet, the vacuum system sucks up soil and debris at a speed of 200 miles per hour. A suction excavator is often used for precise digging jobs because it reduces the chance of cracking.

A suction excavator. PHOTO | TO FILE

One of the main drawbacks of suction excavators is that the suction pipe is usually 30 centimeters or less in diameter, which makes them unsuitable for large-scale projects.

6. Hydraulic excavators

Also known as mechanical excavators, hydraulic excavators are the most powerful types of excavators.

They are equipped with a powerful motor and large buckets which make them ideal for mining and heavy digging work. However, backhoes are often larger than needed for most jobs.

A hydraulic excavator. PHOTO | TO FILE

7. Long reach shovels

These types of excavators are equipped with a longer arm and boom than standard excavators to allow them to excavate hard-to-reach sites.

In most cases, the long reach excavator is equipped with an extendable arm that can reach 40 to 100 feet away to allow delicate and dangerous excavation from a safe distance.

A long reach shovel. PHOTO | TO FILE

Long reach excavators are suitable for projects where the terrain or site prevents the machine from moving too close – for example, demolition sites over a body of water.

Various attachments can be installed on the extendable arm to perform other tasks such as crushing and shearing. However, the long arms make it impossible to use in tight spaces.

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