ClimbMAX Steep Slope Harvester

Fluid Power Solutions's specialty hydraulics contribute to a revolutionary forestry machine.

One-of-a-kind hydraulics designed and built by Fluid Power Solutions (FPS) are helping to make harvesting the world’s four billion hectares of forestry land safer and more efficient.

The ClimbMAX Steep Slope Harvester is a safer harvester.

Each year the New Zealand forestry industry harvests about 43,000ha and exports $4.7 billion in forestry products. Both in New Zealand and around the world, the forestry industry is seeking ways to get workers off the steepest slopes to increase safety.  Yet the slopes need to be harvested. The ClimbMAX Steep Slope Harvester is a huge step forward on the way to achieving safety on the slopes. It allows workers to harvest trees from slopes up to 45 degrees – it’s even been tested to work on slopes of 65 degrees!

The hydraulics provide the safety tick

The ClimbMAX is a completely redesigned machine. Project partner Trinder Engineers orders a traditional mechanical harvester out-of-the-box and then fully disassembles it. The heavy equipment is re-located low on the machine’s body to lower its centre of gravity for increased stability. Within the re-built machine, FPS installs an assisting winch and a safety blade.

The hydraulics solution begins with the winch and blade, designed by FPS Director and Design Engineer Gary Allen. Integrated with a computerised system, the winch always works in unison with the machine’s tracks because the entire system is self-monitoring and self-regulating, leaving the operator to set a few system parameters and then get on with the work.

Gary says, “The hydraulics auto-correct if the machine starts moving too fast or the rope tension is nearing its maximum safe working load. It also has a blade with a rapid deployment system to stop the machine if required. The engine is monitored – if it stalls for any reason, then the track and winch brakes are automatically applied to prevent a runaway due to cavitation in the hydraulic system.”

With the controls handled by the FPS customised system, the machine has full flexibility of movement on any slope. It can be on a steep hill in snow, rain, or cold temperatures. It hugs the terrain and can move side-to-side as well as up-and-down, maximising the cut area per shift. All the operator needs to do is concentrate on felling and bunching trees.

What’s under the bonnet

Gary says the biggest challenge was to ensure the operator’s safety and confidence on the steepest slopes.

“The complex winch assist system and safety blade are controlled by three smart programmable controllers designed specifically for use with hydraulic components with high power consumption. There is no need for relays and other electrical equipment that can complicate the system and consume valuable space.

“Then we designed a completely new pressurised hydraulic oil reservoir, which doubles as the machine’s counter weight, and a dry sump system for the engine, which prevent the loss of oil pressure when the machine is operating on steeper slopes. We’ve tested this on slopes of up to 65 degrees and the machine works like a charm.”

There’s no other harvester like this on the market

The machine is the creation of Nigel Kelly, owner of Kelly Logging, who thought of the machine nearly ten years ago. He wanted to find a safe way to get to those steeper slopes that didn’t involve putting his workers at serious risk. He partnered with Trinder Engineering and Fluid Power Solutions to achieve his vision.

Nigel says his machine is highly productive on the steepest of slopes and, as a single operator in a single machine, it’s quick and efficient to set up and get going.

“In today’s environment we have to be efficient, productive and safe and ClimbMAX ticks all the boxes for me,” says Nigel.

Update January 2017

As the ClimbMAX Steep Slope Harvester gains international traction in the marketplace, we field enquiries from around the globe. We've welcomed representatives from Chile, Canada, and three major logging companies in the USA to Nelson to have a look at the next generation harvesting machine. We've now built and tested 10 ClimbMAX machines, with the last one recently shipped off to the USA. The next machine has been ordered and is in production.