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backhoe attachment on Caterpillar skid-steer loader Photos by Willie Vogt
SMART TOOLS: This new backhoe attachment on the D3 Series skid-steer loader from Caterpillar uses new tech to allow the user enhanced control of this new tool. It’s the first of what will be several Smart Attachments for the future from the company.

Smart tools enhance equipment line

Caterpillar is rolling out new skid-steer loaders that can be mated to connected attachments to provide enhanced productivity.

The skid-steer loader has become an essential tool for a range of industries, from construction to landscaping to agriculture. As these machines have evolved from their early counterparts, they’ve been recognized for what they are: powerful tool carriers that allow you to do a wide range of work, from material handling to specific on-farm jobs.

This year, Caterpillar is stepping up its game in the skid-steer market with the new D3 Series of machines, building on the line that got a significant revamp back in 2013. A key feature is the new unitized cab that stays sealed, offers a 40% wider opening and 15% more usable space.

“We didn’t increase the size of the cab,” says Kevin Coleman, product specialist, Caterpillar. “We increased the usable space.” That includes 3 inches more space between the joystick pods, too.

Those are livability improvements that allow users to stay in the cab longer. And the unitized design of the cab also means it stays sealed better, for improved comfort in winter or summer, and in dusty conditions.

new one-piece cab for the D3 Series skid-steer and compact track loader from Caterpillar.jpg
1-PIECE CAB: Up in the air for service, the new one-piece cab for the D3 Series skid-steer and compact track loader from Caterpillar offers improved space and a better seal from dust and the elements. And it’s easy to raise to access maintenance areas on the machine.


Enhanced technology

The D3 Series Skid Steer Loader and Compact Track Loader models now have what the company is calling Smart Technology; this provides more integration with new Smart Attachments. The tech allows the SSL and CTL to automatically recognize Smart Attachments and convert machine controls to align with the specific needs of the attachment.

First out of the chute is a backhoe, which many farmers may find valuable since it can enhance the value of the skid steer for digging around the farm — including having more reach for using an auger in tough-to-reach places when fixing fence.

Farmers are familiar with the idea of a smart tool. With ISOBUS, implements attached to a tractor can be controlled from the monitor of late-model machines. But for a skid-steer loader?

“When you hook up this backhoe to the D3, the skid steer recognizes the attachment,” says Tharen Peterson, product application specialist, who works with attachments at Caterpillar. “You can customize the attachment using the in-cab display of the D3.”

At an event at Cat’s training facility near Clayton, N.C., the company demonstrated the smart backhoe, showing how, once hooked up, the user “sees it” in the in-cab monitor and can put it to work with the controls.

Peterson demonstrated the backhoe, showing that even the stabilizers are controlled from inside the cab. The attachment, once a special bracket is added, can be hooked up to either an SSL or CTL in about 15 minutes.

He also noted that while the backhoe is first, more are to follow. In a company video, there was a tease for a dozer blade that provides the smart performance.

About the D3

The D3 line of SSL and CTL machines covers a wide range, including models with enhanced performance features — the XE models — and even a special Land Management CTL machine featuring 58 gallons of fuel-carrying capacity for a 12-hour day at work, and higher-capacity hydraulics for big mulchers and other specialty equipment.

There are eight models of wheeled SSL machines, ranging from the 226D3 with 67.1 engine hp to the 272D3 XE with 110 engine hp. There are nine models of CTL machines with the same horsepower range; however, the ninth model is the Land Management special, with extra fuel space and higher hydraulic capacity.

Compact track loaders were not originally known for their smooth rides. That’s changed over the years, however, and Cat has done its part with torsion suspension. For the new D3 CTL models, that system has been upgraded to provide what Coleman explains offers a key benefit.

“With heavier loads, the torsion suspension didn’t feel stable to some operators,” he says. “We have modified the undercarriage to provide a more solid, firmer feel during operation while maintaining a smooth ride.”

For day-to-day use, higher speed for travel can have value. The top-end 279D3 and 289D3 loaders have a travel speed of 8.4 mph, which is a 20% boost over the predecessor D Series models. The Cat 239D3 and 249D3 models now come with the two-speed transmission as standard, which increases travel speed by 9%.

You can learn more about the D3 lineup and the smart technology by visiting

TAGS: Technology
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