Review: Hyundai R380LC-9 harvester / excavator

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This Hyundai R380LC-9 turns out to be a highly specialised piece of logging equipment.

Review: Hyundai R380LC-9 harvester / excavator
This Hyundai R380LC-9 is a highly specialised piedce of equipment that started life as a simple excavator.


Stopping to engage four-wheel drive, Porter Equipment's Andy Hicks (in New Zealand) says his ute rides much smoother on forestry roads when all wheels are engaged. Plus, if he needs to avoid a logging truck in a hurry and ends up in a ditch, two-wheel drive won't be much help - the last thing he wants to do is hold up production.

Right now, he is feeling pretty pleased with himself, and rightly so. On behalf of Porter Equipment, Andy Hicks has recently delivered this Hyundai high and wide harvester to a client in the North Island that's been responsible for removing a massive amount of timber over the years.

For those who are not familiar with these types of machines, a harvester is a machine (usually an excavator) that has a hydraulically-operated harvesting head attached. The head grips onto a standing tree which is then cut through with a retractable hydraulic chainsaw. Once the tree is felled, it is fed back through the head and de-limbed (branches cut off) in the process. The finishing touch comes courtesy of the chainsaw on the harvesting head, which cuts the log into specified lengths. These are stacked ready for removal to their destinations.

The head is also fitted with sensors, so that accurate cutting information can be fed and stored in the machine's computer.

In its pre-forest form, the Hyundai R380LC-9 originally weighed in at 38 tonnes, but like a weightlifter on a serious workout programme the new machine was sent for a major makeover to ensure its suitability for demanding forestry work. This included lifting it for 240mm more clearance under the subframe and widening the machine by 315mm; a purpose-built cab; underslinging of the dipper arm to protect it from falling branches; and a host of other modifications to ensure a strong, well-balanced end product. After all the work was carried out and the harvesting head attached, the forest-ready machine tipped the scales at around 48.5 tonnes.

The owner had been operating his machine for just under two months when we caught up with him, and he was very positive about how the R380LC-9 has been performing. Having stepped up from a 33-tonne machine of another brand, one of the benefits of upsizing to the Hyundai was the extra height gained, which enables better clearance over obstacles such as tree stumps and debris. Another thing that the operator liked was the Hyundai's stability and lifting ability, which he says is complemented by the right sized head and something that brings the whole machine together into a very workable combination.

Fitted with a Log Max 12,000XT harvesting head, the operator found this works well with the Hyundai, and he says that he notices the machine doesn't rock around (unlike his previous machines), providing a stable platform to work from.

Weighing in at 4420kg, the 12,000XT is one of the largest harvesting heads produced by Swedish company Log Max AB. Designing and manufacturing forestry machinery for over 30 years, the company produces around 400 harvesters each year, of which approximately 70 per cent are exported to over 30 countries.

The operator says that one of the features he likes about the Log Max head is the ability to quickly change the chain. This is done by loosening two bolts, which releases a cam that is used to keep the chain tight - a very straightforward operation it seems.

A six-cylinder turbocharged 296hp Cummins QSL provides the energy to power the four-tonne head. An important feature here is accessibility to the engine and cooling areas. A hydraulically operated full-tilt bonnet ensures no physical human lifting is required and a backup manual system is also available to open the bonnet, should the engine not be able to be started for any reason. Another good feature which was part of the modifications was the installation of an on-board, air-driven greasing system with hose reel.

Fire suppression is also important in the forest, especially when the nearest help can be hours away. For this reason, an electronically-operated on-board suppression system has been fitted, as are three strategically-placed 'panic buttons' located around the machine.

The operator says that, having clocked up just over three hundred hours, he is still in a settling-in period. We are also told there has been a healthy increase in production over the previous machine. Even though replacement is some time off, the operator says he will look at moving to a new model once the current machine clocks around 6000 hours. It is early days to say yet, but chances look good that the next choice will be Hyundai as well.

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