In 2007 Volvo Construction Equipment announced the development of a new product class of pipelaying machines targeting, primarily, contractors in the on-shore oil and gas industry. The first prototype of the Volvo PL4611 and the Volvo PL4608 are now in the field with production availability beginning in the second quarter of 2008.
The Volvo Pipelayer represents a major technical advance over traditional pipelaying bulldozers equipped with side booms, the basic design of which originated in the 1930’s and has changed little since, according to the manufacturer.
Volvo will introduce a full product range of excavator-based pipelayers. The Volvo PL4608 and Volvo PL4611, with maximum tipping capacities of 88 and 121 tons (80 and 110 t) respectively, will be the center of the line up. The largest Volvo pipelayer, the Volvo PL7015, will have a 165-ton (150 t) maximum tipping lift capacity, 40 percent higher than the largest bulldozer side boom ever produced.
The new pipelayer design combines adaptation of Volvo excavators with modern lifting technology.
Volvo pipelayers provide 360-degree swing with full lifting performance and functionality at all radius positions — a capability unattainable with bulldozer side booms.
Conventional bulldozer side booms are limited to a fixed position for lifting off one side of the machine based on their boom mountings to the outside of one track roller frame. Combined with relatively narrow gauge, this limits their stability and lift capacity.
Volvo pipelayers have a wider gauge and lower center of gravity. Their lifting platform is further enhanced by having the boom mounted inboard of the track frame, closer to the machine’s centerline. This results in greater lift capacity and stability and slope capability, according to the manufacturer.
With the added stability, Volvo pipelayers are equipped with longer booms than bulldozer side booms. This allows higher hook height for better work positioning or in working further away from the trench to avoid caving in side walls. Boom lengths range from 30 to 38 ft. (9 to 11.6 m), depending on model size, compared to typical dozer side-based booms of 20 to 28 ft. (6 to 8.5 m).
Volvo pipelayers are fitted with the on-board Load Management System (LMS) that is designed to enable the operator to know and safely manage the load being lifted in any machine operating condition.
Load- indicating light bars, located on the boom tips, provide visible warning to the operator, adjacent operators, and ground personnel to optimize safety and site management.
The LMS constantly computes load charts for 360-degree rotation and infinite machine geometries up to a 35-degree grade. The system matches and coordinates these factors to current operating conditions via a graphic display on a monitor in the cab along with a wide variety of warning and operational aids.
The LMS is a major improvement over traditional side booms that have only been rated for flat, level ground operation and are typically not equipped with any form of load monitoring, according to the manufacturer.
The new Volvo pipelayers are equipped with an anti-two-block device as standard, designed to improve efficiency and safety with auto kick-out at full winch-up. Visibility is improved due to elevated cabs and an asymmetric boom design.
Load Positioning With a Simple Swing
The inherent capability of 360 degree swing keeps the operator always exactly facing the load. This is a significant advantage over bulldozer side booms where the operator must look over the side of the machine at best and often must look behind the machine for maneuvering or working in reverse. Positioning a load with these machines often requires jockeying the entire machine by twisting and turning the tracks, a method that is time consuming, inaccurate, and can be unsafe.
The Volvo Pipelayer positions its load smoothly by simply swinging the upper structure — just like an excavator. The result is precise, efficient load positioning that increases both productivity and safety. These new machines also have a mechanical, upper structure swing lock for working on severe grades.
The excavator undercarriage system allows for counter-rotation of the tracks for easy positioning and directional changes. High-ground clearance ensures the ability to work in rugged terrain and muddy conditions. Single and double grouser track shoes are available to match traction requirements. The wide gauge of the Volvo Pipelayer allows straddling the trench when useful for project layout.
A key benefit of the new Volvo Pipelayer is its cost-saving versatility. Bulldozer side booms, built on heavily modified track-type platforms, only provide specialty application capability, while Volvo pipelayers can be quickly converted back and forth as a conventional excavator. This allows multi-purpose application increasing utilization and the return on investment, according to the manufacturer.
Adding to the versatility of the Volvo Pipelayer is its ease of transportation. Transportation requirements and restrictions often limit optimum machine size selection on a project or in the anticipation of future projects. Larger models of the Volvo Pipelayer — where transport is an issue — are designed with variable gauge or easily removable track side frames, counterweights and booms. This permits easy disassembly to “roadable” dimensions and weight modules.
These models can self-disassemble and self-reassemble without the need for other lifting machine assistance, in less than one hour.
This ease and efficiency of transportation allows consideration for larger machine selection while lowering operating cost.
The Volvo Care Cab
Volvo pipelayers are equipped with the Volvo Care Cab — an operator environment well known for its spaciousness, visibility, ergonomic controls and climate control. This is a change from the “perch” of bulldozer side booms where operators are typically exposed to the weather. In less common cab- equipped bulldozer side booms the operator environment is basic and visibility restricting. Features of the Volvo Care Cab increase operator comfort and efficiency — and are especially welcome on demanding pipeline projects where site conditions can be extremely harsh.
For more information, call 828/650-2000 or visit www.volvo.com.