VABO Composites, as part of a consortium, has won the JEC innovation Award 2015 for its composite bucket for a wheel loader. The bucket was especially deemed a successful innovation owing to its increased payload capacity due to weight reduction.
The JEC Innovation Awards are presented annually at the JEC Europe Exhibition, the largest professional exhibition of composite materials in Europe. The consortium won the award in the ‘Heavy Machinery’ category for its application of composites in creating a hybrid solution. The winning consortium consists of NLR, ICO, CompoWorld, VABO Composites, Kuiken and Gurit. By joining the different disciplines from the parties involved, the project was a success.
The idea for the hybrid bucket was raised at an exhibition where VABO and Kuiken brainstormed about applications of composite materials for heavy machinery. Kuiken, VABO and The Institute for Composite Development (Instituut voor Composiet Ontwikkeling (ICO)), asked NLR to develop a robust and cost effective but lightweight composite (prototype) bucket for a wheel loader as a replacement of the metal reference bucket. This program was supported by Compoworld, an initiative of various stakeholders within the composites sector in Netherlands, including the national government.
“Reduction in weight is nice”, according to Vaandrager (VABO), “But these few gallons of fuel won’t make the difference. This is the reason we aim for increasing the capacity by a minimum of 10%. As a side effect there is no adjustment needed on counterweight at the rear of the wheel loader. In short: if you have a fleet of 10 wheel loaders preforming work this solution makes one redundant. This makes a difference in the costs”.
Tests in 2014 also involved a determination of the mechanical properties of the material (such as tension and compression strength and elasticity), as well as the economic considerations pertaining to the production costs. Consequently, a choice had to be made about the most economic methods for aggregating the fibers and resin, the two primary components of all composites.
Two different prototype buckets were produced: one type was built at NLR in Marknesse, and the other at VABO in Emmeloord. Tests with the new bucket revealed that the composite buckets could move greater volumes of sand, salt or grain compared to a conventional steel bucket. The end-users of the composite buckets could therefore complete the same amount of work with fewer movements. Moreover, the achieved weight reduction (up to 35 percent of the bucket’s net weight), resulting in an increase of pay-load up to 15% resulted in lower fuel consumption. Later this year production of this hybrid bucket-loader will commence at VABO Composites.