Cat® Wheel Loaders are an integral component of forestry, mining, construction and industrial fleets.
Cat® Wheel Loaders perform a variety of task moving materials and providing support for other machinery and work crews. By installing log handling forks, operators of limber and paper mills are able to utilise the mobility and efficiency of wheel loaders.
There are four typical designs of log handling forks utilised in millyards today: grapple forks, millyard forks, log and lumber forks and logging forks.
The most popular style of log handling forks in use worldwide are grapple forks. These forks are ideal for handling saw logs and veneer cants. There are two variants in design, unloading grapple and sorting grapple. These logs enable wheel loaders to effectively unload log trucks delivering wood from the bush, stack logs into inventory, reclaim wood and feed the mill. The design of each is optimised for mainly performing the task illuminated in the grapple’s name but will be good at performing the other tasks too.
Using unloading grapple forks, the wheel loader operator tilts open the fork down over top the logs on the log truck trailer and crowds or rolls the logs into the grapple as he closes the top clamp; similar to the way a crane would use a grapple.
Unloading grapple forks have a shorter tine length facilitating this action by the operator to grasp a full load of log each pass or cycle maximising efficiency.
Sorting grapple forks have slightly longer tines to enable the wheel loader operator to pick a single log if needed. When Logging Forks reclaiming logs from inventory, the wheel loader operator will slide the tines flat along the ground and roll the logs into the body of the grapple while closing the top clamp when a full load is accomplished. A Kicker or hydraulic ejector arm is optional if needed.
The main reason this design is ideal for saw, veneer and plywood mills is the logs suffer much less damage when rolling into the grapple compared to other log fork designs.
The next most popular log fork design is Millyard Forks. These are typically very sturdy and will easily last the life of the machine if the wear resistant metal is replaced on time. Similar to grapple forks, the tines are fixed to the carriage of the forks. However, the carriage is typically more square to the tines.
Wheel Loader operators can use the brute force of the machine to load logs into the fork, enabling high productivity. These forks have a wider tine profile for stability and are much more suited to mills that consume varying lengths of logs. The fork’s top clamp typically bypasses the tines providing a tight grip on the logs. A variation in design for utility pole manufacturers uses thin tines with roller tips minimising damage possibility to the poles.
To increase the versatility of the machine even more, Cat offers a bucket with pockets for the fork tines to slide into so the wheel loader can perform some chip/shaving/saw dust clean up without uncoupling from the fork. Wheel Loaders will unload trucks, stack logs in inventory, reclaim and feed the mill using these forks.
Log and Lumber Forks
Log and Lumber Forks are available in two design styles; no top clamp and semi-millyard top clamp. These forks are ideal for moving palletised stacks of boards from the saw mill to the kiln or from the kiln to the planer. The design is similar to pallet forks but much more sturdy. Mills can choose 1220, 1524, 1830, 2134 or 2440mm tine lengths to suit their operation and the size of machine they are using. These forks are not ideal for handling logs but do okay in limited not production situations especially if the fork has a top clamp.
Many operation customise the carriage based on the particulars of the operation. Log and lumber forks enable wheel loaders to operate efficiently in the yard moving palletised stacks of boards.
Logging Forks or Tropical Logging Forks are the least common design but can be very effective depending the mill operational needs. Commonly these forks are fitted to larger sized machines like the Cat 980M, 988K and even 990K but Cat offers them for all wheel loader sizes down to 950M. The carriage is similar to Millyard Forks but wider.
Logging Forks are designed with two top clamps that close to the tip of the tine. In the bush, tree harvesters will use these forks to move native logs to a landing and even load log trucks with a wheel loader. In mills consuming uniform large diameter logs these forks prove to be extremely effective and enable excellent machine efficiency. A Cat 988K or 990K can unload a log truck in a single pass in seconds. These machines are highly productive feeding the mills logs from inventory too.