THE RAPTOR 300 LANDS IN FRANCE
The RAPTOR 300 had been marketed for about a year across the Rhine, and we were impatient to see it at work.
This was made possible by Hantsch, the French importer, which held a demonstration in Saône-et-Loire last January 20 to present the latest in the AHWI PRINOTH line of tracked vehicles to the public.
A NEW CHASSIS
The AHWI PRINOTH line of tracked vehicles is being renewed, as the Raptors gradually replace the RT models. After the RAPTOR 800, a massive 640 HP machine presented in Hanover during the 2011 edition of the Agritechnica, its little brother, the RAPTOR 300, was introduced at the end of 2014. The RT200 and RT400 models are still present on the market but will be replaced later. With its 275 HP, the new tracked vehicle fits into the niche between the two RT models to occupy a rather promising market segment. If we judge by what the manufacturer has announced to us, the commercial launch of the RAPTOR 300 is already keeping is promises, with nearly twenty models already on the market. First of all, the manufacturer decided to have two engines coexist. The Caterpillar C7.1 is offered in version Tier 3 or Tier 4 on the same chassis. Compared to the RT200, the rear hood has increased in size and now is as high as the cab in a more harmonious extension. This new architecture has mainly allowed the manufacturer to offer four oversize openings that permit easier access to every part of the engine compartment. Real doors occupy the entire side of the hood, on both sides of the machine. While this new look gives the Raptor 300 a very compact appearance, its dimensions are no less respectable, with a length of 6474 mm and a width of 2550 mm, AHWI M650m mulcher included, a height of 2700 mm, and a total weight of 15250 kg.
TWO MECHANICAL DRIVER MODES
Initially scheduled for Doubs, this first presentation of the Raptor 300 in Metropolitan France had to fall back on Dommartin-lès-Cuiseaux, in the Saône-et-Loire plain, due to snow. We therefore see it operate on relatively flat and very sodden ground. The machine presented is equipped with a Tier 3 engine and an AHWI M650m mulcher. One of the specific features of the PRINOTH tracked vehicle concerns its drive. The end customer has a choice between using the classic power take-off shaft or the PowerBand belt drive. The PowerBand operates on a mechanical principle, a deliberate choice by the manufacturer, who considers this guarantees a much better performance and reduced operating costs compared to a hydraulic system. However, the Powerband drive is no longer direct but depends on a system of pulleys and six molded-notch V-belts, three on each side of the M650m mulcher. For AHWI sales representative Stefan Jehle, this type of drive, patented by the manufacturer, definitely provides more flexibility and allows the rotor to absorb shocks better without losing power during restarts. The tool certainly looks efficient. The site where the demonstration was conducted is a parcel to be cleaned that was clear-cut a few years ago. The stumps are barely visible in the midst of the vegetation, which has already overgrown the site. The engine progresses regularly. The 650 mm diameter hollow rotor weighs 850 kg and rotates at its ideal speed. When it encounters a stump, the impact is absorbed gently. If necessary, the operator, who has a tachometer on the dashboard, can also slow the rotor manually. One last advantage of the PowerBand drive: it allows the tool to be lifted much higher, 1.50 measured from the center point of the rotor.
A major improvement introduced by the Raptor 800 and adopted for the 300, concerns the final drive train, named the Delta Track System by the manufacturer. Its triangular shape provides better protection for the high rear sprocket, which no longer risks sinking into the ground. In reverse, the departure angle is much better, and pebbles, stumps, embankments or other obstacles are approached less abruptly. The steel tracks adapt better to the ground. They are offered in three sizes, 600, 730 or 800 mm wide. Two types of profiles are also available. In the standard version, they nonetheless have a marked outline with double strips, and a slightly curved shape on the sides to mitigate soil degradation when the vehicle turns. In fact, very few traces were visible on the demo site after the machine performed many manoeuvres. Stefan Jehle points out that it is also possible to opt for a more aggressive track undercarriage for working on slopes. The RAPTOR 300 is designed to operate on an incline of up to 45° going forward, and 30° when crossing slopes. While we won’t be able to judge it today, it must be recognized that the tracked vehicle presented, with 730 mm tracks, is particularly respectful to soil that is literally waterlogged. With this equipment, the impact on the soil would be 280 g/cm2, and this figure can be reduced another 10% in 800 mm mode. While on foot you sink 10 cm into the soil in some places, the Raptor literally seems to float over the ground. Behind it, the ground is clean and perfectly flat.
“MORE FLEXIBLE DRIVING”
Up to now everything is going well. The German demonstrator is very adept. But it must be recognized that the ground is not very complicated and this leaves us a little unsatisfied. That’s until a driver in attendance asks to try the machine. Philippe Racat works for Sarl Bourassin-Schouwey of Luxeuil in Haute-Saône. He is very familiar with PRINOTH tool carriers because he operates an RT200 every day. Gilbert Tisler, the company’s manager, explains they bought the tracked vehicles “to replace tractors in going where they can’t go”. Visibly, both men look satisfied with the services provided by the machine. What’s good is that Philippe seems to have decided to test the guts of this RAPTOR 300. Without warning, he steers the vehicle to one edge of the lot, where a denser thicket has been in place. The machine pushes hard and the small trees are knocked down and reduced in its wake by the mulcher’s 56 UPTs tools, the one or two-bladed hammers patented by Ahwi. In any case, nothing stops the Raptor’s progress, and Philippe looks somewhat excited. He immediately makes the comparison with the RT200: “It’s much more flexible. You feel the shocks less. The 200 is much rougher!” he enthuses. He thinks the new tracks, “with the sprocket in the air”, having something to do with this. The 5000 kg of additional weight probably plays a role too. The electronic control that regulates the forward progression and distributes the power between the tool and the carrier also provides a lot of flexibility, and eliminates any risk of stalling.
ALREADY A BEST SELLER
What’s certain is that the cab was designed for comfort. The interior space, even reduced, is well optimized, the soundproofing is efficient and the shocks are well absorbed. The windshield, protected by a sturdy grille, lowers to the ground and offers a clear view of the tool and the work area. The cab tilts forward with a hand pump. Underneath there is access to the big oil-filled couplings, which absorb shocks and thus preserve the shaft from breaking. The large openings in the rear hood allow access to all the other mechanical parts. A reversible fan, with an inversion interval adjustable according to the work, ensures dust removal. Looking at a Tier 3 engine, the amount of empty space in the cab is surprising. “With the Tier 4 engine, it’s completely full,” Stefan Jehle points out. The manufacturer decided to have the two engines share the same chassis to adapt to different legislation. In any case, if we are to believe the German representative, this intermediate size between the RT200 and the RT400 was expected, because in one year of existence, he confides to use, the RAPTOR 300 is already the line’s best seller. V.N.
Vincent Nathan, appeared in Le Journal de la Mécanisation Forestière, N° 161, April, 2016