Technical developments have dramatically changed the excavator operator’s working conditions since the hydraulic days. The joystick plays a crucial part in that change from a clunky machine to a precision tool, and today the area of development is ergonomics.
In 1950 the first hydraulic excavator was invented in France. Thirty years later, the joystick made its debut in the cab. Soon thereafter, proportional functions were introduced.
Caldaro launched the first version of its Viper handle in 2003. Today it has become very popular and is used in hundreds of thousands of machines worldwide. Altogether, the combination of the ergonomic, multifunctional Viper and the powerful C14 makes a great solution that fits very well into modern machines.
The evolution of machines and the development from mechanical levers to modern joysticks have meant a lot for ergonomics.
Keep the operators healthy
Oskar Broström, CEO of the construction company Broströms situated on the Swedish island of Gotland, has operated excavators for more than 40 years. He started on his family’s farm and, many years later, started his construction company.
”When I was a boy, I had to use both my arms and all the muscle power I had to move a lever,” Oskar says. ”Today, I steer almost everything with my fingertips.”
”It might be fun and nostalgic to try out one of the old machines from my childhood,” he continues, ”but my body gets exhausted after one hour. The old machines were built to last forever, while the human operator could be exchanged. Today we want the operators to keep their health. The human operators are our superpower.”
One technical step he highly appreciated was when proportional control was introduced.
”Before, I had to push a button a hundred times to create a relatively smooth movement, and it would still be a bit jumpy,” he recalls.
”Today, I regulate the flow by the pressure I transmit to the joystick. My job has become more precise, more effective, and sustainable.”
Claudio Talamo, CEO of Caldaro, develops the reasoning further:
”We fine-tune our Viper joysticks towards better ergonomics and more functions. It’s about making better movements, such as optimising how to pull the bucket. Pulling it once instead of twice saves human resources, the machine, and the amount of power and time used.”
Therefore Caldaro has designed the Viper handle in five models; the smallest, Viper Slim, is the newest in the family.
Smaller joysticks for better ergonomics
Using ergonomic controls is important, and as long as they can add the functions they need, the operators at Broströms always choose a small joystick. At the same time, they need to be more exact when the movement is smaller.
”In the old days, you could move a joystick 4 centimetres; it’s a big difference to work with one that moves just 7 millimetres,” Oskar emphasises.
The great potential for the development of joysticks lies in the field of ergonomics. Sweden is known for its tradition of caring for good working conditions, which Oskar has noticed when meeting people from the construction business abroad.
”In Sweden, we are at the frontline regarding following new rules and ergonomic requirements. I once heard a machine manufacturer outside Sweden say that they learn from the Swedes because we have higher demands on our machines and controls.”
Claudio Talamo agrees: ”Many big machine producers look at, for example, the Swedish forest machines with small yet very functional joysticks. Big joysticks might look powerful, but nowadays, we know that a small joystick can do the job with less physical stress on the operator.”
This article has been published in IVT International.