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Tailor-made Volvo excavators are boosting subway construction in South East Asia

Specially-designed versions of the Volvo EC140BLC are being used both in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The machines are specially-engineered to operate within the tight confines of basement projects while still delivering Volvo’s world leading fuel efficiency.

With Singapore’s metro rail network set to double from today’s 178 km to 360 km by 2030, there are a slew of projects currently on going. Much of the work takes place below ground and with the demanding construction schedule, contractors are looking to the latest technology to help them bring more efficiencies to their projects.

 Singapore contractors Chuan Lim Construction Pte. Ltd., and Koh Kock Leong Enterprise Pte. Ltd., are two companies heavily involved in the subway construction work. Both have invested in specially-modified Volvo EC140BLC excavators to help them manage their work fast and effective.

Shorter arm and boom

Given the lack of space on the below-ground projects, maneuverability was a key consideration for Volvo in tailoring the new EC140BLC basement machines in response to a request from Koh Kock Leong Enterprise for an excavator that was capable of working productively in tight spaces.

The resulting product is a version of the EC140BLC which weighs 14 tons and features a newly-designed boom and arm. Measuring 3.4 m and 1.5 m, the boom and arm are shorter by 1.2 m and 1 m respectively than the standard EC140BLC. This gives the EC140BLC basement machine the ability to optimally operate in tunnels of four meters in height.


Arm cylinder re-positioning

Delivering further compactness in the modified EC140BLC design is the re-positioning of the hydraulic arm cylinder. This cylinder controls the movement of the arm and Volvo’s engineers relocated it – and its attendant hydraulic piping – under the boom, to prevent damage being caused from the basement ceiling during excavation. In the standard design, the cylinder is situated on the top of the boom, with the hydraulic piping positioned on the top and sides of the boom.

While these changes enhance the EC140BLC’s maneuverability underground, the team at Volvo CE also considered the impact of the low light conditions found in basement environments. Specifically, the team wanted to account for any lack of sight the operator might have of the bucket cylinder. Given the costly damage to an unprotected bucket cylinder by errors in steering in underground applications, Volvo’s solution was to install a steel cover around the cylinder. 


Outstanding fuel efficiency

While the modifications help with the underground application, Volvo CE’s famous fuel efficiency remains an enduringly popular feature. Similarly, the high productivity and long, uninterrupted working hours the Volvo units put in are helping Koh Kock Leong Enterprise deliver the progress and performance the job requires – all the while keeping running costs under control.

“Our machines work for at least eight hours a day, with a number of them having to work around the clock. What we’ve noticed with Volvo machines is that their fuel efficiency is the best among all the brands we have,” said Tiam Teck Koh, managing director of Koh Kock Leong Enterprise.

In addition to its investment in the specially-modified EC140BLC machines, Koh Kock Leong Enterprise also purchased the Volvo EC380DL with a telescopic arm. These units are based at ground level and extract the earth moved by the basement machines. These latest investments bring Koh Kock Leong Enterprise’s fleet of Volvo machines to over 30.

Minimized downtime delivers efficiency

With the success of the EC140BLC models at work for Koh Kock Leong Enterprise, word soon spread and Chuan Lim Construction was next to place an order. The company was immediately impressed with the staying power of the modified EC140BLC excavators, as minimizing operational downtime is critical to its success on the subway projects.

“We mainly use the excavators for deep basement and foundation excavation, works for MRT station boxes, and rock breaking for various projects,” explained Albert Quek, director of Chuan Lim Construction. “We like to work with Volvo because they are quick to respond to our requests, and their service team is very competent in dealing with technical problems.”

Chuan Lim Construction also bought the EC380DL telescopic excavators and the company’s latest arrivals bring its fleet of Volvo excavators to 23, with EC380 (telescopic and non-telescopic versions), EC210 and EC50 units among the other models it owns. 

“In our industry, fuel efficiency and operational uptime are critical and, in these aspects, Volvo is able to meet our expectations,” concluded Albert Quek.

Machines sold also to Malaysia

In addition to Singapore, the modified Volvo EC140BLC excavators have been delivered also to Malaysia where they are being used in the extension of Kuala Lumpur´s metro system.

The standard EC140BLC has bucket capacities ranging from 0.55 m3 to 0.93 m3 while lifting capacity along the undercarriage is 3,330 kg. It has a maximum digging reach of 8,330 mm and a maximum digging depth of 5,530 mm. Its Volvo Care cab offers improved all-round visibility, a high-capacity climate control system and vibration dampening, all of which contribute to all-day operator comfort and improved productivity.


View the basement applications video here.