Construction machinery specialist Nick Johnson reports on a new British product deigned to take the backache out of moving materials on small building and refurbishment jobs.
The next time you use an orange Belle tip-up mixer think of the late Doug Blackhurst. He founded the Belle business in Sheen, Derbyshire during the 1950s and, through the introduction of automated production techniques, his company put the mini mixer on the map.
Following the death of Doug Blackhurst in 1995, his son Ron became the Chairman of the Belle Group and he ran it until early 2009 when the business was sold to the French company Altrad. Now Ron Blackhurst is back in construction equipment manufacturing to pursue his vision of firmly establishing another mini machine in the building industry.
Ron Blackhurst’s new company is Tufftruk Ltd and it is now busy making micro dumpers at its own dedicated assembly facility in Sheen. The 4WD machines are branded Truxta and the first units to be introduced are articulated Bendi models with a payload of 300kg.
Builders buying these Bendi machines get a choice of petrol, diesel or electric power. The petrol-powered unit has proved to be most popular and, complete with a 3.6kW (4.8hp) Honda GX160 4 stroke engine, this is known as the Bendi TB300G.
The Bendi TB300D has an electric start 3.5kW (4.7hp) Yanmar L48 diesel engine and the Bendi TB300E is fitted with an 800W/24V DC Brushless electric motor which is powered by two sealed 12V Trojan lead acid batteries. The quiet, fume free electric dumper has an integral battery charger with both 230V and 110V input leads. A full recharge is achieved in 12 hours.
The centre joint of each Bendi utilises a specially produced gimbal that provides 40° of articulation left and right and oscillation of 9° either side of centre. This arrangement ensures that all wheel contact is maintained when traversing rough ground. The petrol and diesel powered units have hydrostatic drive with a belt driven central pump motor linked by chains to the wheels.
The four-wheel drive system on the 725mm wide Bendi dumpers has been patented and the machines are robustly built. Drawing on his experiences at Belle, Ron Blackhurst has constructed a similar undulating endurance testing track on which he has fully checked out his new dumpers.
Ron Blackhurst says that the production models have benefitted greatly from both exhibition feedback and the involvement of engine manufacturers. Consequently a hinged plastic cover now provides better access to the engine and fuel filler. The GX160 installation has become fully Honda approved resulting in customers getting a three-year engine warranty.
To put the Bendi through its paces in a typical restricted space construction application, Professional Builder made use of an old cottage being renovated near to Tufftruk’s assembly facility in Sheen. Fitted with a 300kg capacity dumper skip, the narrow machine proved easy to travel up planks and through the front door of the cottage.
Once inside, the articulated chassis came into its own as the machine easily completed a tight 90° turn from the hallway into the front room. The sacks of sand in its skip were then manually tipped onto the floor of the room by using the skip release lever.
All three Bendis are controlled by a pedestrian operator using simple handlebar controls. The handlebars are wide enough to make it easy to steer the well-balanced machine whilst allowing enough side clearance to prevent hands from being scuffed when moving through narrow opening.
The machine’s ample articulation made it much easier to turn about the sharp corners inside the cottage than would have been the case with a more conventional rigid frame, four wheeled power barrow. This small, 725mm wide dumper should be able to follow a micro excavator into all the same restricted space locations on site to provide a well-matched material extraction team.
Maximum forward speed is 4mph for the both the petrol and diesel powered machines. Maximum reverse speed for both units is sensibility restricted to 1.5mph. The hydrostatic transmission is smooth and the transmission brake will hold a fully laden dumper on a 25° slope.
The petrol and diesel engined Bendis have respective unladen weights of 170kg and 201kg. The electric machine weighs a bit more at 224kg but it scores by offering quieter (69dB LwA) and fume free operation. As is to be expected, the petrol and diesel machines have higher sound power ratings of 94dB LwA and 99dB LwA respectively.
The electric machine has a slightly different control arrangement with a red deadman’s lever on the left handle bar grip and a combined direction selection switch and twist grip speed control on the right hand handlebar. Maximum forward and reverse speeds are 3.5mph and 1.5mph. Usefully a Curtis battery charge indication meter is included as standard.