Latest news from the fully automatic quick coupling sector

Published 11/3, 2022 at 09:11

Fully automatic quick couplers are today a must in the global demolition and recycling industries. Here are the latest developments.

Efficiency, safety and environment are all generally becoming more and more important on demolition and recycling worksites as using the right tool for the job is extremely important today. Fully automatic quick coupling systems have been the solution for the operators for years now, with new systems and upgrades being released continuously. In PDi issue 1 every year we always take a look at what’s new and what has been released during the last 12 months in terms of quick couplers. Here you go, with the latest from manufacturers.


‘Smart Attach’ from Kramer

When the first automatic quick couplers were released they were mainly for excavators, but today there are also automatic quick coupling systems for other construction vehicles. Kramer has released an innovative enhancement of its well-known quick change plate for wheel loaders. The new, patented and fully hydraulic quick hitch system, Smart Attach, aims to ensure greater productivity, efficiency and safety. Customer requirements have been a key focus here, resulting in the achievement of fundamental and sustainable benefits. Kramer’s well-known quick change plate has been a standard piece of equipment for wheel loaders since 1963 and is still a fully effective system. Widespread approval continues to form the basis for further development, which led to Smart Attach. The dimensions of both systems are identical, so existing attachments can continue to be used.

Hydraulically driven attachments can be coupled with the new system without getting in and out of the vehicle, as connection with the hydraulic circuit is automatic. The attachment is locked and hydraulically coupled, with automatic pressure release by a simple touch of a button with a secure two hand operation. With the coupling unit’s integrated locking display (green), the operator can always see that the attachment is attached to the machine successfully and securely. For all machines already fitted with the new quick change plate, the display also features a corresponding illuminated indicator. What makes the new and patented system so special, therefore, is its total flexibility. On the one hand, attachments without the hydraulic function and attachments with the conventional hydraulic coupling system can still be used. And on the other hand, customers also have the option of retrofitting older attachments or using new attachments that are customised ex-works to the Smart Attach system with the tried and trusted quick change plate.

This flexible solution is unique on the market. The patented system with floating coupling storage also ensures that there is no wear on the quick coupler. The performance characteristics of machines used in combination with the new Smart Attach system remain at the highest level. Consequently, not only does Kramer ensure that there is no need for constant interruption to the scheduled work process, the company also scores points with operators who are able to make quick and safe use of the appropriate attachment for the relevant application. For example, following any leakage of bulk material, nothing stands in the way of any urgently needed switch between grapple bucket and sweeping machine on the construction site. In the meantime, however, arriving trucks can also be unloaded directly and easily in seconds, with a fully automated change of attachment, from the grapple bucket currently in use to the pallet fork which is now required.

Kramer also provides the EC declaration of conformity for the entire system, for both machines and attachments. Initially, the system will be offered as an option in the large ‘5-series’ as well as for some machines in Kramer's premium ‘8-series’ range. As well as the attachments already factory fitted for these machines, corresponding retrofit kits will also be provided ex-works to enable existing attachments to be fitted with the system. With this innovative and sustainable enhancement - the fully hydraulic quick hitch system Smart Attach - Kramer continues its focus on flexibility, durability and quality.


Liebherr ‘Likufix’ for wheel loaders

The fully automatic Likufix quick change system, an in house development by Liebherr, is a well-established development for Liebherr hydraulic excavators, having proven itself in the medium sized series of wheel loaders in recent years. It is a solution that comes into its own in operations involving multiple working tools. The Likufix quick coupler system allows the operator to safely and conveniently change mechanical and hydraulic working tools at the push of a button from the cab.

Liebherr is now increasing the availability of its fully automatic Likufix quick change system for additional wheel loader models. It is now available for the two compact loaders L 506 and L 508, for the two stereo loaders L 507 and L 509 as well as for the ‘XPower®’ large wheel loaders up to the L 580. As before, Likufix is still available for the medium sized Liebherr wheel loaders L 526, L 538 and L 546.

The smaller Liebherr wheel loaders from the L 506 ‘Compact’ to the L 509 ‘Stereo’ are known as versatile all-rounders. With Likufix the flexibility increases even further. The machine operator can switch, for example, between a hydraulic 4 in 1 folding shovel, a forklift or a sweeper within seconds at the push of a button. The hydraulic lines are connected automatically and reliably with Likufix which means no valuable time is lost.

Working with hydraulic tools such as high dump buckets, buckets with hold down devices, log grapplers or separator buckets is typical for larger Liebherr wheel loaders. This is why Liebherr also offers its fully automatic quick change system for larger wheel loader models. Likufix makes it possible for the machine operator to easily change these and other tools at the push of a button from the cab. This increases safety because when changing equipment there is no need to leave the cab and therefore no risk, for example, of going out into the site traffic at a recycling yard.

The Likufix quick change system is prepared for tough requirements. The hydraulic coupling is supported by springs. The forces that act on the quick coupler are therefore not transferred to the coupling system. Even with long periods of use, the connections between the hydraulic circuits remain absolutely tight. To make maintenance easier, all moving parts are easily accessible. If necessary, customers can easily carry out cleaning and simple maintenance activities such as changing a seal themselves.


‘Connect’, the integrated quick coupler from Mecalac

Mecalac states that it was the first manufacturer to equip its machines with a hydraulic quick coupler as a standard. Its integrated Connect quick coupler was recognised at the Intermat Innovation Awards, when it was launched in 2015 for being light, reversible, easy to use and completely safe. There is no need for an intermediate and heavy part to be added in between the tool and stick for the connection, and therefore no extra weight. This compactness also further reduces the distance between the end of the stick and the tools, thus further preserving forces at work.

The Connect hydraulic quick coupler is a combination of a ‘hanging system’ on the tool side and the hydraulic coupler itself. The ‘hanging system’ (patented by Mecalac) is a hook device preventing the tool from falling both when it is unlocked and when working. The hydraulic coupler itself is made of just a cylinder that locks and releases the tools. The cylinder also compensates the play due to the wear of the tool over time. Mechanical tools are switched very easily directly from the safety of the cab thanks to this ultra-intuitive device. The Connect quick coupler is also reversible and lets users work in both directions, which makes operation more efficient.

Connect is claimed by the manufacturer to be the ultimate connection between the machine and tools. Mecalac's new generation of Connect quick coupler offers enhanced durability with the manufacturer claiming it to be ‘proven to be the best coupling solution of the market’. Mecalac Tiltrotators, recently launched, are compatible with a twin Connect coupling system.


The OilQuick solution with new plant in the US

OilQuick states that it is the original developer and first commercial manufacturer in the world when it comes to fully automatic quick couplers. According to the company, OilQuick is also the world’s best-selling manufacturer of hydraulic quick coupler system with over 40,000 systems sold worldwide. Decades of experience and testing have provided the reputation that the solutions work and that the operators get an outstanding combination of quality, performance and safety. “Many copies of our technical solution exist today. Both Steelwrist, Rototilt and SMP are based on the technology OilQuick developed during the 80’s,” says OilQuick president Henrik Sonerud.

Based in Hudiksvall, Sweden, with subsidiaries and sales organisations in multiple countries, OilQuick now operates throughout the world and offers products, as well as support and service. With 120 employees in Hudiksvall, last year’s turnover was about €460M. OilQuick is in a very expansive phase right now, expanding both production plant and office facilities in Hudiksvall. The company is continuously hiring new staff and looking for ways to grow as fast as it can. OilQuick is also growing in Europe and this January also started a production plant in USA under the new name OilQuick Americas.

With an OilQuick fully automatic quick coupler all attachments can be changed directly from the driver’s cab in just seconds. The operator can stay safely and comfortable in the cab, and still always have the right attachment for the job. The OilQuick safety features help the operator to avoid dropped buckets and other attachments. The OilQuick product series contains quick couplers for excavator, ‘OQ’, quick couplers for material handlers and cranes, ‘OQC’, quick couplers for loading machines, ‘OQL’ and quick couplers for forklift trucks, ‘OQT’. In addition OilQuick also offers ‘OQTR-E’ which is based on the manufacturer Engcon’s rotor body and OilQuick’s couplers. OilQuick also produce the ‘OilQuick LockSupport (OQLS)’.

With the various fully automatic quick coupling systems from OilQuick, the operator can change easily between various work tools and attachments within a few seconds. This includes such attachments as a hydraulic hammer, steel shears or concrete cutters, concrete pulverisers, sorting grapple, electric magnet, compactors, sorting buckets, tilt bucket or tiltrotator. The systems come with a wide range of connections to suit specific needs and can distribute hydraulic oil, grease, water and electricity. Other advantages are fast change of hydraulic, electric and mechanical attachments from inside the cab to ensure the right attachment for the job. The systems are safe, meaning that no staff are around the machine during tool changes, with the systems meeting all safety standards on the market. Other benefits are that the system reduces the number of machines on the site and increases productivity which leads to increased profitability. Further advantages include reduced transport costs, minimal oil spills, protected hose routing and less dirt in the cab.

Additional benefits, with for instance the OQC couplers for handlers and cranes, are that the hydraulic cylinder has double hose rupture valves. Full system pressure continuously applied to the locking bolts ensures that the attachments are locked securely in place without any play. The robust quick coupler is made of high grade steel. The OQ system can be supplied in various models for machines from 1t to 120t.

The OilQuick LockSupport (OQLS) is an advanced user friendly driver support for safe and secure attachment switching on excavators. OQLS is available for all nine sizes of OilQuick fully automatic quick couplers and all tiltrotators. Nowadays modern excavators are equipped with hydraulic quick couplers and use a number of buckets and attachments, which in many cases are switched several times each hour. There is always an element of risk when switching buckets and attachments. Dropped and swinging buckets can accidentally cause either severe personal injury or even result in fatalities. The reason for dropped buckets in most cases is driver related and can depend on many factors such as work stress, non-standardised lock manoeuvring, difficulty in determining whether the attachment is aligned correctly, uncertainty in the position of the locking bolts. OQLS minimises all these problems and gives the operator safe and secure support for the right decisions when switching buckets and attachments.


Next generation Rototilt ‘QuickChange’

Technology development in the construction industry continues, with efficiency and ergonomics increasingly going hand in hand. A new example being the new generation of fully automatic Rototilt quick coupler systems that introduces new innovative benefits for machine couplers, tiltrotators and tools. “I was sceptical at first, but this is as different as night and day,” says Matti Ainasoja of Lindbergs Last & Planering, who has used Rototilt QuickChange for two years. “The fully automatic quick coupler system brings a huge increase in efficiency, as excavator operators never have to leave the cab to switch between different hydraulic tools,” says Sven-Roger Ekström, who adds, “At the same time, safety significantly increases as no one has to be around the machine during tool changes. Rototilt has also integrated the ‘SecureLock’ solution into the new system, which entails that the machine operator gets a clear acknowledgement that the tool under the attachment is correctly connected thanks to the built in lock sensor in the cylinder.”

One of Rototilt's goals has been to develop a system able to handle the high flow tools available on the market. Its own tests and measurements also show that this goal has been achieved by a wide margin. Both the test operators who have tried Rototilt QuickChange in advance of release, and customers who are now investing in the new technology, have said to welcome the system. “It's a whole new world, a very stable quick coupler with automatic coupling of hoses that means I never have to leave the cab to change tools. Those who can never imagine investing in this technology shouldn't test it either, because once you have, you can't be without it – that's how good it is!” says Johan Lindberg at Lindberg's Last & Planning in Norsjö with a smile. His colleague Matti Ainasoja agrees: “I'm a bit traditional and at first I was quite sceptical. But now that I've been using it for two years, the feeling is a bit like when you've just got your driver's license – freedom! In addition, I can quickly set the tiltrotator and mount tools directly on the system's machine coupler, getting extra power when, for example, I'm going to be using a tooth bucket or ripper.”

The time aspect is another benefit: “I save several hours every day,” says Robert Viklund, Viklunds Gräv AB. “But the most important thing isn't time, but that the job is done safely and correctly.” Another benefit for operators is that Rototilt QuickChange is based on the open standard for fully automatic quick couplers for excavators, Open-S. It is a further development of the symmetrical quick coupler standard for excavators, the S standard, which gives machine operators and contractors freedom of choice when it comes to combining tiltrotators with tools from different manufacturers. “We believe in healthy competition, where industry players compete to have the best products, not to lock customers into a closed interface,” says Anders Jonsson, CEO Rototilt, who along with Steelwrist is the initiator behind Open-S. “If the customer buys a tiltrotator from Rototilt, they should feel confident that all hydraulic tools that comply with the Open-S standard will work together.”

Open-S is owned and administered by an independent organisation, the Open-S Alliance, which in turn is led by a council of engineers from a growing number of member companies.


Steelwrist adds SQ90 to the range of fully automatic quick couplers

The global demand for fully automatic coupler systems continues to grow in both the demolition and construction industry. During 2021, Steelwrist introduced the SQ90, so far the biggest model in the range of ‘SQ’ ‘Auto Connection’ quick couplers. The SQ90 is targeted toward excavators up to 70t in the demolition industry. After the very successful SQ Auto Connection quick coupler launch in 2017, the range today includes SQ60, SQ65, SQ70, SQ70/55, SQ80 and SQ90. Steelwrist SQ couplers are said to be appreciated by customers for the increased safety and ability to change hydraulic powered work tools in seconds without leaving the cab. The addition of the SQ90 coupler meets the demand from the demolition industry where many and fast work tool changes are common.

“The Steelwrist SQ Auto Connection quick couplers have been appreciated by the customers from day one onwards. In the demolition industry, with its frequent work tool changes, it is all about using the right tool for the right job at the right time. SQ allows operator and machine to work continuously at all times and work safety increases when operators can easily change and use the best tool for the job,” says Stefan Stockhaus, CEO of Steelwrist AB.  SQ90 as well as all other Steelwrist SQ products, follow the global Open-S industry standard for fully automatic couplers for excavators. The standard makes it easier for machine operators and contractors to choose quick couplers, tiltrotators and work tools from different manufacturers and be confident that they function together.

‘Front Pin Lock’ from Steelwrist is a mechanical lock of the front shaft which significantly limits the risk of an unintended drop of work tools. With Steelwrist’s entrance into the demolition segment, the patented Front Pin Lock technology has been upgraded to a second generation in order to support the heavy demolition work tools. Furthermore all SQ couplers come with ‘QPlus’ technology which enables higher hydraulic flows with less pressure drops than many other systems on the market.

Other news from Steelwrist is that Steelwrist and Volvo CE are continuing to develop the partnership that started more than a decade ago when Steelwrist became the preferred supplier of true factory mounted tiltrotators and quick couplers fitted to Volvo excavators. As the demand for fully automatic quick couplers on excavators continues to grow rapidly, Volvo CE is now expanding the offering with Steelwrist SQ Auto Connect quick couplers directly from the factory for both crawler and wheeled excavators between 13t and 35t. The launch also includes work tool adapters in matching sizes. With the fully automatic SQ quick couplers operators can efficiently and easily change between tiltrotator, hydraulic powered work tools and mechanical work tools, from the comfort of the cab.

Steelwrist has also announced that it has signed a cooperation agreement with Demarec for SQ fully automatic quick coupler systems for Demarec products and SQ quick couplers. Demarec is one of the major manufacturers of hydraulic attachments for the demolition and recycling industry. With more than 25years of experience in the sector, Demarec has been successful in answering market demand with innovative technology and expertise.  Furthermore, Sandvik and Steelwrist have entered into a cooperation agreement for full automatic work tool adaptors for Rammer hydraulic hammers. As the global demand for fully automatic coupler systems is rapidly increasing, Sandvik started offering Steelwrist SQ-type adaptor plates directly from the factory during the third quarter of 2021. The deliveries from Sandvik will be compliant with the global Open-S standard.


SMP Parts new member of the Open-S collaboration

The Open-S Alliance works towards the global interchangeability of hydraulic work tools for excavators, and is a manufacturer independent organisation. Membership is available as either full, associate or supporting level depending on if Open-S products are developed, produced in house or sourced. The alliance was initiated by Steelwrist and Rototilt. In November, 2021 SMP Parts was the latest company to join the Open-S Alliance and the third manufacturer of tiltrotators and quick couplers to become a full member. SMP Parts is a manufacturer of tiltrotators and quick couplers with complete mounting systems for excavators. The company operates in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, UK, Spain, US and the Benelux countries, with a number of dealers in each country. All development and manufacturing are carried out at the main headquarters and factory in Ilsbo, Sweden.

“We have had a clear goal at SMP Parts, to be one of the suppliers included in the Open-S Alliance, precisely because it both increases our competitiveness and because it gives our end customers more opportunities to use SMP products,” says Mattias Andersson, chief technical officer at SMP Parts.

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