The Panther undercarriage system is equipped with rubber tracks and a high travel large wheel/tandem that were developed to work together to provide off-road capabilities with minimal impact on the environment.
Prinoth announced its participation in a consortium of European forestry institutes together with the leading cut-to-length forestry OEM Ponsse. The partnership aims at developing a forwarder with rubber tracks that can protect the forests and soils while improving productivity and access to weak forest grounds. Consortium members were looking to set more stringent thresholds for damages, to adopt improved operations practices and to better regulate creation of ruts and treatment.
Prinoth's Panther undercarriages, which have a ground pressure as low as 4 psi, provided the best solution to the consortium. The Panther undercarriage system is equipped with rubber tracks and a high travel large wheel/tandem that were developed to work together to provide off-road capabilities with minimal impact on the environment. This feature will help reach one of the project's specific objectives to significantly diminish wheel rutting and soil disturbance compared to a regular wheeled-forwarder.
“We have tried other products from other companies before hearing about Prinoth's Panther but none could provide the low ground pressure or the off-road capacities that Prinoth can,” said Tommy Blom, project member.
The project will comprise of Panther undercarriages assembled into a Ponsse timber forwarder.
“We are quite confident that the payload capabilities in extreme off-road conditions that our undercarriage system can provide is the solution that this consortium has been looking for,” said Alessandro Ferrari, VP of sales of the tracked utility vehicles business unit at Prinoth.
The Panther undercarriages also will provide speed and as such, increased productivity for businesses, according to the company. More specifically, this forwarder will allow for exceeding machine utilization rates for contractors which will, in turn, translate into a more constant wood supply not dependent of weather conditions.
For Prinoth, as a manufacturer, this project means that the undercarriage expertise developed over the years will transpose to a very demanding industry like forestry.
“Having such a versatile product, we know we can meet any customers' needs. This new partnership with Ponsse and the consortium is really exciting for us and we look forward to seeing the tests' results,” said Ferrari.
OnTrack — Horizon2020 Project
The purpose of the two-year project is to investigate alternative running gear in a form of a tracked chassis system that could reduce the impact of machines on forest soils, while maintaining or even improving productivity.
Allowing Better Machine Utilization Rates in Milder, Wet Weather
According to the companies, if successful, OnTrack will set a new environmental performance standard in forest operations, encouraging others to follow suit.
“The anticipated outcomes may significantly reduce the impact of forest machines on soils, simplifying planning and allowing higher machine utilization rates for contractors, thus lowering costs and improving the environmental profile of the sector”, said Rasmus Astrup, OnTrack project coordinator at the Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO).
Merging Technologies from Two Different Sectors
The OnTrack project will test various configurations of Prinoth's tracked undercarriages on Ponsse timber forwarders. Forwarders are heavy terrain-going machines designed to extract large loads of timber to the nearest forest road. When soils are soft during the winter thaw or after excessive rains, both the risk of damaging the soil through compaction and rutting, as well as fuel consumption, increase considerably.
“OnTrack is really an exciting project, both for Ponsse and for my engineering team as well,” said Kalle Einola, R&D manager responsible for technology, product safety and IPR at Ponsse Plc. “The basic idea behind the project is good and its implementation with a heavy-duty rubber track system is something we believe in. It is also interesting with a concept for a new forwarder that is built from readily available commercial components.”
The enthusiasm is just as great from the supplier of tracked undercarriages.
“OnTrack is an exciting project since it aims to combine the best off-road capabilities with minimal impact on the environment,” said Ferrari. “Contributing to potential new market sectors with new environmentally-friendly solutions is of great strategic importance to us at Prinoth,” Ferrari concluded.
Prinoth's main contributions to the OnTrack project are its knowledge and proven track technologies, which combine low ground pressure with low vibration, off-road capabilities and high-travel speeds.
A Representative Consortium
In addition to Finnish Ponsse Plc and Italian Prinoth, partners include Konstholmen AB and Skogforsk in Sweden; Metsäteho Oy in Finland; LSFRI in Latvia; KWF in Germany; and Owren AS and NIBIO (coordinator) in Norway. The OnTrack concept machine will be tested in all participating countries. This H2020 Innovation Action was initiated in the fall of 2016 and it will run over a period of two years.