For the past two years, PRINOTH has been participating in EU-funded Project together with the leading cut-to-length forestry OEM, PONSSE, in a consortium of European forestry institutes to develop a low-impact forwarder. Following a long tradition of developing solutions to a more sustainable environmental protection and as the heir of the Muskeg all-track tractor invented by Bombardier in 1953, PRINOTH was enthusiastic to provide its know-how in this challenging off-road application.
This project was started through the Nordic-Baltic Network for Operations R&D financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers - Forest Research and aims at finding technical solutions to offer a vehicle with good flotation and low impact on soil. Consortium members were especially interested in investigating the possibility to set more stringent thresholds for damages, to adopt improved operations practices and to better regulate ruts’ creation and treatment. The solution was the development of the OnTrack Forwarder, a prototype tracked timber transporter aiming to be as productive and durable as conventional machines, but much gentler compared to standard forwarders. Even when carrying a 14-ton load, this gentle giant exerts less pressure than a human footprint on the ground, as low as 4 psi (pound per square inch) or 281 g/cm2, reducing wheel rutting and soil disturbance by over 70%.
The vehicle was created by fitting the chassis of a reputable timber forwarder onto an undercarriage with metal-embedded rubber tracks. The vehicle is composed of two (2) PRINOTH PANTHER undercarriages, a T6 front portion onto which a PONSSE Buffalo forwarder is mounted, as well as a T12 undercarriage used under the load part.
PANTHER undercarriages on rubber tracks provide more speed and better traction than a regular wheeled-forwarder thus significantly increasing productivity for businesses. “The most important socio-economic benefits lie in the potential for contractors to work more consistently throughout the year while meeting stringent regulations,” said by project coordinator Rasmus Astrup of the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO). “Smaller contractors, who are the majority in this industry, have to service large capital investments and are dependent on being able to use their investments productively for as much of the year as possible.”
At this stage in the project, PRINOTH has proudly demonstrated its high payload capability and high travel, low vibrations, more comfortable undercarriage, as well as its low ground pressure capacities which exceed those of any competitors’ thanks to a robust and well-engineered platform. Overall, the advanced concept team at PRINOTH is pushing the limit of its track and undercarriage technology with this project. Nevertheless, it is clear that the vehicle concept will have to be optimized before the vehicle can be industrialized.
“At PRINOTH, we’re happy to test the limits of our undercarriage in such a challenging application. This is going to help us extract some key learnings from this project to apply selected findings to other applications. As for forestry, I think we have proven that it is possible to move large quantities of wood with low impact on soils,” says Alessandro Ferrari, Vice-President of Sales at PRINOTH.