Upping loading performance

Having introduced the new generation Liebherr 5.1 wheel loader range late last year, an upgrade of the previous 5.0 generation, Liebherr-Africa reports increased local demand for the three new models – the L 550, L 566 and L 580. Key talking points are the performance increases – increased tipping load, larger bucket sizes and more engine power – resulting in 25% less fuel burn per hour and 15 % higher production. By Munesu Shoko.
The new L 580 has a 27-t operating weight, which allows for a 4% standard bucket capacity increase from 5 m³ to 5,2 m³.

Following the global introduction of the new generation wheel loaders in January last year, the first units of the new L 550, L 566 and L 580 arrived in South Africa during the fourth quarter of 2022. Since then, several machines are already in operation at local sites across applications, including quarrying, construction, contract mining and port handling, confirms Lavell Ruthman, Head of Sales – Earthmoving Technology at Liebherr-Africa.

Developed at Liebherr’s Bischofshofen plant in Austria, dubbed the company’s Technology Centre for Wheel Loaders, the new range benefits from the company’s decades of experience in designing wheel loaders. Central to the development of the new wheel loader series, Tendayi Kudumba, General Manager Earthmoving Technology at Liebherr-Africa, points out, was the ‘voice of the customer’.

As part of the development process, Liebherr observed its customers’ wheel loader operations around the world, including Africa. Customers’ experiences were crucial to the development of the new wheel loader series. Some of the key improvements influenced by this exercise include a sustainable performance increase in the two new models and a new electrohydraulic pilot control for increased safety and productivity. The performance of the L 566 in terms of engine power has remained the same while the bucket capacity has increased.

Performance increases

The new L 550, L 566 and L 580 wheel loaders feature Liebherr’s proven hydrostatic travel drive, which is renowned for its efficiency. The Liebherr driveline achieves a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 25%. Given that fuel is a major cost driver for loading operations, this reduces operating costs significantly.

Thanks to increases in engine power, the travel drive is even more powerful while maintaining lower levels of fuel consumption. While the L 566 has maintained the same level of engine power (200 kW) as its predecessor, the L 550 and the L 580 benefit from a power increase of 13% (168 kW) and 9% (219 kW), respectively.

“This is advantageous when accelerating or penetrating material and lowers fleet fuel costs. Liebherr has installed the diesel engine in the rear, where it also acts as a counterweight thereby increasing the tipping load for the wheel loaders,” explains Kudumba.

Continuous tractive force, combined with automatic limited slip differential, prevents wheelspin, thus increasing productivity, while reducing tyre wear by up to 25%.

In addition, the new range benefits from larger and stronger axles as well as increased operating weights, allowing for a marked increase in bucket capacities and ultimately productivity. The previous generation L 580, for example, weighed in at 25 tonnes (t), while the new improved model has a 27-t operating weight, which allows for a 4% standard bucket capacity increase from 5 m³ to 5,2 m³.

“The new L 550 has a 6% bucket capacity increase from 3,2 m³ to 3,4 m³. While the L 556 retains the same axle as its predecessor, the model however benefits from a standard bucket capacity increase of 4% (4 m³ to 4,2 m³),” explains Ruthman.

The performance of the L 566 in terms of engine power has remained the same while the bucket capacity has increased.

Lift arm versions

With the new range, Liebherr has two lift arm versions on offer. Firstly, the Z-bar kinematics, which come to the fore particularly in the lower lifting range and for the break-out force. Secondly, the industrial kinematics, which have been designed for working with heavy working tools such as high dump buckets and log grapplers.

Finally, Liebherr also offers the High Lift arms – an extended version of the Z-bar kinematics with the longest lift arms in this wheel loader segment. These ensure greater reach and more productive loading procedures at great heights, which is beneficial when loading railway wagons or lorries with high sides.

The working hydraulics of the wheel loaders have impressed local customers with their larger components and new electrohydraulic pilot control. This technology ensures responsive movements of the lift arms, independent of the size or weight of the working tool.

Liebherr also offers a new, optional weighing device on the basis of the electrohydraulic pilot control. The assistance system works automatically as a check scale and provides real time information about the loading procedure. This data helps machine operators to fill dumpers very precisely with the specified quantities and to avoid overfilling.

Increased safety

The new range offers increased safety thanks to the electrohydraulic pilot control. “The electrohydraulic pilot control enables operators to perform individual adjustments on the new wheel loaders. For example, they can set lift limitations and maximum tilt-out heights, thus reducing the risk of accidents in areas where space is restricted. The tilt-out speed can also be programmed to protect lift arm components and the installed equipment,” says Kudumba.

In addition to these optimisations for operating safety, Liebherr has also invested in the operational reliability of the new wheel loaders, given that they are faced with an abundance of challenges: remote operating areas, extreme climates, demanding loading materials and multi-shift operation over a long period, all demand a high degree of reliability.

“For this reason, Liebherr has installed larger axles than were fitted on predecessor models. Liebherr has drawn on proven components from its other wheel loaders for the core components and steel construction,” says Ruthman.

The L 550 benefits from a power increase of 13% (168 kW).

Comfort and functionality

When designing the new wheel loader range, Liebherr paid particular attention to operator comfort, which is a key parameter in enhancing productivity. The clean lines on the rear as well as the large glass surfaces in the cab facilitate good all-round visibility. Furthermore, the new reversing camera, which is installed in a protected position in the engine bonnet, assists the machine operator to keep an eye on the area to the rear.

Numerous details that have been seamlessly integrated in the wheel loaders’ exterior design make service work easier. For example, on the L 566 and L 580, the engine bonnet opens to the rear, making the diesel engine freely and safely accessible.

A sturdy cab access leads to the redesigned and spacious operator’s cab. One of the special features of the cab is the height-adjustable 9-inch touch display with intuitive menu navigation. The high-resolution display provides a clear overview of all the wheel loader’s operating information.

“The new Liebherr control lever enables the highly sensitive control of work movements as part of the modern operating concept. Hydraulic working tools, such as the log grappler, can also be precisely controlled with the optional mini joystick on the control lever,” concludes Kudumba.

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