Some weeks ago, I had the pleasure to see a Kaiser S12 machine in operations. It’s an extreme versatile machine, normally used to climb the Alps for different kind of jobs. I visited one of the few machines that are currently operating in Sweden, doing clearing work. A Kaiser S12 that contractor Ekströms Skogsservice uses to clear brushes and small trees in power lines. On flat land!
Under a high voltage power line, I met Niklas Jonsson who runs the contracting company (together with Johan Persson) and Jonny Svensson who’s operating the machine. They showed me how the Kaiser S12 machine works and it’s a pretty cool and capable machine to watch. In the video (below) you can see how it can adapt to terrain and obstacles.
Before we go into the details of the Kaiser machine, it’s a good idea to tell a bit more about Ekström’s forest service: It is a company that specializes in clearing power lines in both wide (tree-secured) and narrower power lines. The company is located in Eksjö in south Sweden and they have about 30 employees. Except for clearing power lines the company also do silviculture and forest services such as forest clearing and some arborist missions.
Niklas describes the journey towards the current clearing concept. Together with the company EON (Electric Power supplier), they have worked for many years with testing and evaluating a number of base machines and different clearing units to find the right mix of capacity, durability and agility. In addition to the Kaiser machine, there is also a Menzi Muck in the company. That’s also a rather odd machine for Swedish conditions, a typical “alpine machine” from Switzerland.
-Menzimuck with its pendulum arms and climbing opportunities led us on the right track, says Niklas. The functionality was good but we needed a more powerful machine and then we got hold of the Kaiser S12.
Kaiser S12 from Lichtenstein
It’s not so often you hear about the small country Lichtenstein in the European Alps (if you are not as old as me who followed Ingemar Stenmark and Andreas Wenzel on TV in the late 70s). In any case, a machine called Kaiser is manufactured there, and it’s basically an excavator for work in very difficult and demanding terrain. At Kasier AG’s website you can see pictures of slightly different, more or less breathtaking work projects where the machine is used with different types of buckets and “tools”.
The Kaiser S12 has a Perkins HP engine (step IIIB according to their site…) of 129 kW / 175 HP and a powerful hydraulic system with its own pump circuit for units/equipment with high flow requirements and which provides up to 220 l / min.
The special feature of both Kaiser S12 (and MenziMuck’s machines) is that they have four pendulum arms, or rather “legs” on which the wheels are mounted. These legs are manually controlled by the driver and each leg can be controlled individually. They can be raised and lowered, but can also be spread or pulled horizontally. On the rear legs there is also a pair of extra supporting legs that can be pressed down into the ground to get extra good grip if it’s very steep. This means that the machine can be set up with the greatest possible stability for the task almost regardless of how the ground looks like. It also provides an exceptional capability to handle obstacles, which is especially valuable when clearing power lines. The machine has a crane with about 8 meters (26 ft) reach at maximum extension and it lifts according to Kaiser 6500 kg (14 000 lb) at 4 meters (12 ft).
Climbing fence and water
With the help of the pendulum arms and the crane, the Kaiser S12 manages to climb over fences or ditches but also over smaller creeks. For the power line contractors who work along the length of the lines, this gives a great deal of flexibility. Being able to cross many obstacles without having to drive around makes the work more efficient.
The denser the better
Ekströms has tested many different units on their cleaning machines but today they are using one with a rotating disc with both knives and teeth. It’s a Promac head which originally comes from Canada where this type of equipment is more common than in Sweden.
I asked Niklas how much the machine is clearing compared to the guys who swing a clearing saw. Due to Niklas, the machine corresponds to somewhere between 2-3 persons. The denser the clearing is, the greater the difference to the machine’s advantage. Now it’s not only the machine that works in the power line clearing, but some clearing is supplemented with motor-manual workers. For example, around the posts and supporting wires where the machine cannot clear for safety reasons.
Laser to keep track of the width
Together with power company EON, Ekströms has developed and tested a smart system to keep track of the width of the power lines, using a laser device. The laser equipment detects where the line is and by means of a reflex on the Promac unit, the system can then specify exactly how far from the line the cleaning unit is working. This gives a good support to the driver so that the width of the row is neither too narrow nor too wide.
Here’s a video of the Kaiser S12 clearing power lines
And here’s some pictures