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Raising the bar for mining dozers

With the world's largest production dozer, Komatsu meets Canadian mines' power, versatility, and sustainable operation requirements.

Originally published in Canadian Mining Journal

Mining dozers may not have the profile of excavators and haul trucks. Still, they're essential for closing gaps in mining workflows and are equally subject to sustainable and efficient mining demands. Komatsu has met this challenge with the D475A-8, currently the world's largest production dozer, which deploys a winning combination of power, efficiency, sustainability, and ergonomics.

Many of the machine's latest features were developed and tested through a continuous improvement process conducted by Komatsu's engineering group and the company's largest independent distributor, SMS Equipment of Acheson, Alberta. The process has given Canadian mines the unique opportunity to participate in the evolution of the dozer to ensure that it meets the needs of their operators, who work in some of the toughest conditions in the world.

"By working closely with the SMS Equipment team on this product, we've improved it based on their deep understanding of Canadian mining and their ongoing dialogue with Canadian mining customers," says Noboru Kawabata, Product Support Manager at Komatsu America Corp. "This has made it possible to develop an outstanding product, and we are confident that by continuing this cycle, we will be able to provide even better machines to our customers."

"I think this dozer is a real success story," says Chad Perreault, Mining Technical Specialist at SMS Equipment, "because it truly reflects working with customer input to make a better product. Many manufacturers talk about this, but in this case, we can point to specific features, like the way the doors open on the hood or the fact that the radiator fan can swing out so you can wash the radiator. These, and many other features, came from an ongoing process initially started by Mark Haywood, SMS Equipment's Technical Support Manager, over a decade ago."

"The process," says Perreault, "is a testament to Komatsu's commitment to Canadian mining, which presents designers with some of the toughest mining challenges."

Improving workflow efficiency

Mining dozers often play a pivotal role in supporting high-volume processes such as excavating, loading, and hauling. To meet this requirement, the D475A-8 has the size and the power to handle the most demanding tasks. With 15% more power in reverse, the machine has faster ground speeds, shortening cycle times and making it 10% more productive than previous models. It can also handle a wide variety of blades to meet particular material-handling characteristics.

The D475A-8 enables excavators, haul trucks, and other equipment to operate more efficiently by matching the productivity requirements of the entire workflow process chain.

Creating an operator-friendly environment

Recruiting operators to work in remote Canadian mines is difficult, even under the best conditions. To help mines meet this challenge, Komatsu completely re-designed the cab in the D475A-8, providing an operator with a comfortable and highly sophisticated control environment. The cab has an entirely new heating, cooling, and ventilation system, making the cab quieter and better sealed for dust.

"This model has an excellent climate control system right out of the box," says Perreault. "It has a lot of vents, it moves a lot of air, and the cab pressurizes very well – it's quite quiet."

A rear-view camera, high-resolution screens, and fingertip control also help improve safety and reduce operator fatigue. "Fingertip control is a real bonus for operators," says Perreault, "because if you're working on slopes or rough ground, you can hold onto the bar to steady yourself while you operate the controls and provides very smooth steering. So, this is something that they are pleased about." Enabling the blade auto-pitch and ripper auto-return features also enhances the operator experience by eliminating repetitive movements, further reducing operator fatigue.

Perreault points out all these features result in less operator fatigue and reduced risk of operator error and accidents; they are complemented by new safety features such as better lighting and an optional power ladder to make it safer to climb into the cab in slippery conditions.

Maintainability

Maintainability

Many Canadian mines are in remote regions, making maintenance potentially more challenging and amplifying equipment downtime's disruptive consequences—key aspects of the D475A-8 design help to alleviate these concerns.

Durability is a significant part of this. A single-link design for the link structure reduces blade sway and corresponding wear by 73%, improving the shim adjustment point to only one place. A 16% larger trunnion size provides a longer wear life. Other improvements include changes in the track frames, equalizer bar and pivot shafts.

Details such as improved service access and fewer grease points make the machine easier to maintain, shortening maintenance-related downtime. SMS Equipment also works closely with customers by providing remote and on-site maintenance services and helping customers develop maintenance plans to reduce their overall cost of ownership.

Relationships that matter

Relationships that matter

"Customers appreciate our working relationship with Komatsu," says Haywood. "They recognize that to Komatsu, we're not just a dealer but a partner that helps them incorporate a better understanding of Canadian mining into their products. Komatsu trusts us to recommend modifications and will stand behind us as we work to determine and satisfy the specific requirements of our customers."

This demonstrates that heavy equipment isn't just about technology – it's also about having the right relationships to ensure that the right technology is deployed in the right place at the right time. With the development of the D475A-8 mining dozer, Komatsu and SMS Equipment have shown how important these relationships are.

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