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6 Excavator Types and Their Uses

What are the different types of excavators?

  1. Crawler excavator
  2. Dragline excavator
  3. Skid steer excavator
  4. Suction excavator
  5. Long reach excavator
  6. Wheel-type excavator


For an excavator, its uses may vary across different applications. For example, small excavators may have the sole purpose of only hauling piles of soil from the ground and transferring it to another location. Larger excavators, on the other hand, may be found in a wide application of civil engineering, construction, and even different kinds of mining projects.

There’s no single excavator that can perform all other complex activities as mentioned above. Some excavators have custom-made and specialized attachments that do more than just transportation of materials. Before you think about adding another type of heavy machinery to your fleet, you’ll have to understand the different types of excavators and their uses. Continue reading to learn more.


Crawler excavator


Crawler excavators are also known as standard excavators and are commonly found across different construction sites. This kind of heavy equipment normally performs functions such as digging trenches, lifting of heavy objects, and even in mining operations. This is made possible through a high-pressure hydraulic system that typically makes use of pressurized fluid technology.

The most defining feature about crawler excavators is its unique way of maneuvering. Instead of machinery that is usually navigated with the assistance of wheels, crawler excavators are operated with large endless tracks. Typical of standard excavators, attachments such as the stick, boom, and bucket are located at the front of the machine, where the operator would be in clear view of. These attachments can be customized in order to accommodate more intensive activities like demolition works, just to name an example.


Dragline excavator

Unlike your standard excavator which can be manufactured in compact sizes and be used in small scale operations, dragline excavators are primarily used for surface mining. The dragline is arguably one of the largest heavy machinery that has been produced in the world because of its unusually-elongated boom that is attached to the front of the main vehicle.

Unlike the solid boom that may be found in standard excavators, dragline booms come in a more barebones structuring that serves as the framework for the entire machinery. This makes for a sturdier mechanism of dragging heavy materials that may be located at a distance from the machine, using the hoist drop and the drag rope — both of which are powered by an electric motor and are capable of horizontal and vertical dragging.

Dragline excavators make the best equipment for road excavation works, especially in unearthing heavy soil from the ground. This may also be used in bigger piping work which may be found in irrigation systems.


Skid steer excavator

The skid steer excavator is probably the most compact type of wheel loader that you may encounter on this list. It’s significantly smaller than your standard excavator, and even more so, compared to the towering dragline. Unlike both of these machines which have their attachments placed at the front of the cab, skid steer buckets are placed behind the driver. This enables the carrying motion to be done over the cab as opposed to the alternative.

Due to the size of skid steers, these are perfect for construction activities that require minimal function at least. These may be used in residential projects that cover only a small area. Skid steer excavators can be easily maneuvered in narrow locations without difficulty.

Apart from residential applications, skid steers may also be utilized in farming work, depending on the kind of attachment. Instead of a bucket, brush cutters or bale spears may also be attached in order to facilitate other types of motions.


Suction excavator

Suction excavators don’t really perform typical excavator operations that you may already know about. These machines don’t exhibit your average carrying or hauling movements. Instead, they make use of a high-powered vacuum. Because of this function, suction excavators are also oftentimes identified as vacuum trucks or tankers.

The vacuuming motion present in suction excavators is accompanied by another high-powered method of blasting away at a targeted area. This helps the soil become looser and less compact than before, making it easier and safer to remove the materials without endangering its surroundings.

Suction excavators are suitable in both wet and dry conditions. This is made possible through some of its components, like the vacuum machine filter and high-powered water assembly. These components play a role in allowing the vacuuming function to be more delicate and precise, especially in cases wherein the worksite has not yet undergone a thorough assessment.


Long reach excavator

Long reach excavators may appear to be similar to dragline excavators due to the long boom and the long stick. These machines aren’t really used for digging trenches, or holes, though they may be ideal for them. Instead, they’re perfect for demolition works because of the long reach.

The arm of a long reach excavator can range from 40 to 100 feet and is powered by an oil cylinder which assists in the reaching motion. These components enable the machine to reach different heights, especially when it comes to taller buildings and other applications.

Despite the scale of the machine, the long reach is fairly easy to use as long as a trained machine operator is doing the job. Apart from this, it also improves the safety outcomes in the event that accidents may occur — the range of the arm from the main cab of the excavator creates a significant distance between any potential hazards.


Wheel-type excavator


The wheel-type excavator is another kind of heavy equipment that can be found across many general construction sites. The name itself signifies that the machine is maneuvered through the help of durable wheels that make mobility easier. Despite its size, the wheel-type machine can smoothly be driven on different kinds of terrain with relative ease.

Due to the ease of use, wheel-type excavators are fuel-efficient, making them the perfect choice for construction work that may be more intensive than usual. Some common types of attachments that you may find on a wheel-type excavator include hydraulic thumbs, breakers, or a rotary grapple.


Key Takeaway

You may already have an idea that some of the most common excavator uses include the digging of trenches, transport of objects, and demolition works. But there are excavators that can feature specialized attachments and structures that allow them to perform work in different conditions.

Just some of the excavators that you may encounter include skid steer, crawler, wheel-type, dragline, and suction. The range of customization may vary across each machine, but knowing their primary uses will help you more easily make a decision on which machine should be utilized.

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