Heil Updates its Rapid Rail® Automated Side Loader


Heil Environmental has updated its popular Rapid Rail® continuous pack automated side loader to provide customers with improved durability, easier maintenance and smoother operation.

"The Rapid Rail has led the automated refuse and recycling collection movement for more than 30 years; and it remains in demand by fleets throughout North America," says Shannon Harrop, Heil director of product management. "In order to ensure that we are offering our customers the best possible products, we frequently re-evaluate our vehicles for improvement opportunities. Over the past two years, as part of our Voice of Customer program, we have facilitated multiple meetings with Rapid Rail users to learn what they like about the product and what changes they recommend. Many of the improvements we have made are direct results of their valuable input."

Heil's product design team focused the improvement efforts on the Rapid Rail's automated arm structure, electrical system and hydraulics. The continuous pack body, with its patented paddle packer design, is unchanged.

To strengthen the arm, engineers designed a tapered cross section main lift beam to better match the stresses imposed on the backbone of the lift. The cross section grows taller near the pivot point of the lift where maximum stress occurs. The lift beam is precision-cut using Heil's unique laser technology. The grabber gears also have been beefed up. The teeth on the new grabber gears are 80% larger, providing a significant improvement in durability.

The Rapid Rail's former electrical system used limit switches to regulate the arm's hydraulics controls. These switches required frequent adjustment. Heil engineers have replaced the mechanical limit switches with modern proximity switches that need minimal adjustment.

The Rapid Rail is one of the only automated refuse collection vehicles to use electrical cab controls, which many operators prefer. The electric shift valve has traditionally produced a more abrupt motion. To keep the popular electric controls, but smooth out the arm's performance, Heil replaced the old valve with a "soft shift" valve metered by advanced controls. As a result, the arm moves much more smoothly.

Heil also has added a cable carrier to the arm to house all of the hydraulic hoses and an electrical loom. The carrier allows the hoses to move and flex, while minimizing rubbing that can lead to wear. Other hydraulic hoses and electrical wiring were rerouted to better protect them against damage and improve access for service.

Other Service Smart enhancements include moving the lift valve from a position on the arm itself to a more easily accessible location on the stationary track along which the arm travels. The old coordinator board and impulse relays have been replaced with a modern PLC (programmable logic controller) which allows for more sophisticated electrical diagnostics.

The new parts have been designed to retrofit to the thousands of existing Rapid Rail continuous pack automated side loaders in the field. Retrofit kits are available through Parts Central, a Heil company.

"Most of the Rapid Rail features customers like are unchanged," Mr. Harrop says. "The arm's unique geometry provides a direct line to the hopper, with no 'kick-out.' Although the arm's structure is more substantial, the vehicle operator retains the industry-leading cart visibility the Rapid Rail is known for. And all the specs are the same: 8 s cycle time, lift capacity up to 725 kg, 2,4 m reach and the ability to serve more than 1000 homes per day."

All of the Rapid Rail continuous pack body's popular features remain, as well. High-tensile steel construction makes the floor and hopper walls strong. Its paddle packer continuously sweeps the hopper and packs the load. Since this design requires no packer panel to slide into the body, there are also no shoes, guide tracks or guide rails to wear out, and it is never necessary to clean out behind the packer. All hydraulic cylinders are accessible from ground level. The packer cylinder is located under the body, which protects it from refuse contamination, and eliminates the need for technicians to crawl into the body to service it. There are also fewer cylinders to service: the Rapid Rail uses only two cylinders to raise, lower and lock the tailgate, compared to four on some other bodies.

The updated Rapid Rail will be available in the third quarter of 2007.

Source: Heil Environmental

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