First Cat AP500E Paver Arrives
Caterpillar products have served Blenheim-based TC Nicholls Ltd well since the company’s inception in the mid 1960’s, and expectations are high for its latest acquisition from Goughs – an AP500E paver, which is the first Cat model of its kind to be delivered in Australasia.
TC Nicholls operates throughout the Marlborough and Nelson regions, with the business growing on the back of Blenheim’s expansion over the last 20 years. Specialising in road construction, final prep and sealing, the company is kept busy with new subdivisions and the many winery developments that the region is famous for.
This growth resulted in owner Mark Nicholls looking for new paver options in the market, and with Goughs introducing the new Caterpillar AP500E to the industry through a paving roadshow last year, Mark took the opportunity to demo the unit himself. He was so impressed with its performance that he snapped it up and the paver hasn’t gone any further!
Mike Meskimmon, Goughs Product Manager - Compaction and Paving says the AP500E includes the features the worldwide market has come to expect from Caterpillar. “The wheeled undercarriage provides exceptional mobility and high speed capability when moving around the job site, while excellent flotation limits disturbance on soft base materials ensuring uniform mat thickness.”
“Other features are a quiet and powerful Cat C4.4 ACERT engine that is emissions certified, dual swing out operator’s stations with tilting consoles, a center mounted high capacity cooling package and Caterpillar’s unique material handling system with independent reversible feeder and auger controls.”
TC Nicholls new AP500E replaces a competitive paver and although Mark Nicholls has only had the Cat paver operating for a few months, the advantages have been dramatic. “Our previous paver had a screed width with extensions of only 3.5m. What attracted me to the AP500E was it’s 4.0m screed, which can be extended to 4.5m with extensions.” “This provides big advantages to our operation as the Cat has a much greater capability resulting in better productivity. It showcases an excellent mat finish and we’re finding the great results by the new paver are actually driving our own quality.” The AP500E is equipped with a AS3251C screed and has an operating weight of 15 520 kg.
Mark says the electric screed plate has major advantages over the gas powered screed incorporated in the old paver. “Its user friendly, reliable and provides fast heat-up, and in combination with the extractor fan, this minimises the smell for my team working on the job.” The on-demand, variable-speed fan also keeps sound levels low, while directing exhaust air toward the hopper, away from operators and ground personnel.
The dual swing-out operator stations, tilting consoles and low profile design of the deck-mounted cooling system provide good forward visibility that enables the operator to communicate effectively with the truck driver while monitoring mix in the hopper. Extending the stations beyond the machine frame also enables good joint-matching capability and optimal rearward visibility to the auger chamber.
The screed control panel incorporates touch-pad technology with high intensity LED’s that promote simplified use and diagnostic capability with minimal operator training. The heating elements are arranged in a multi-zone configuration to provide even heat distribution for smoother mats.
Goughs commitment with parts availability was also a key factor in selecting the new paver Mark notes, “This paving unit is not a high utilisation machine, but I need it to pave on demand. It has to be ready to go and I know with Goughs they’ll carry the parts I require to ensure any downtime is very minimal.”
The other benefit in selecting the Cat package is the paving expertise Goughs provides via their paving specialist Bob Tripp. “He’s excellent and brings so much paving knowledge to our business”, says Mark. “He’s very hands on and has got our young guys trained up and confident on the paver. We also know if we need any refresher training, that Goughs has the resources available to assist us on that side of things.”
Mobility and consistent speeds are keys to efficient paving operations. The Cat system is equipped with automatic speed control and three propel/steering modes: PAVE, TRAVEL and MANEUVER. The TRAVEL mode provides speeds of up to 16 km/hr (10 mph), enabling the AP500E to be quickly repositioned around the job site. The PAVE mode enables the automatics for mix delivery, while the MANEUVER mode allows 0.75 m inside turning radius for excellent mobility in tight quarters.
The left and right conveyors in addition to the left and right augers are controlled independently ensuring mix demand is met when increasing or decreasing paving widths. Ratio control dials and sensors (mechanical or sonic) signal the augers and conveyors to run faster or slower when changing paving widths, thus keeping the head of material at the set level. When paving around obstacles the system automatically makes the necessary adjustments for uniform mix delivery.
Mark Nicholls concludes by saying, “Our company certainly has some history around developments in local region, and as the town and surrounding districts continue to grow, we’re looking forward to our new Cat paver providing the ideal finish on these projects for many years to come.”