August 5, 2014
I received these photos last night (August 15, 2013) of a new John Deere prototype Grapple Skidder. I cannot tell you whether this unit is close to being completed or simply one of several designs. This unit is currently undergoing field trials in Louisiana. Once it hits the woods I hope to get some feedback from loggers as to how it performed, new design changes, etc. From the cab design it looks as if Deere might be trying to incorporate a turn around seat to compete with Tigercat. As I receive more info and pictures I will pass them along.
Update – August 6th, 2014
Since I originally posted this last year, more pictures have come to me of the new prototypes (Buncher and Skidder). Some of these have already surfaced elsewhere on Facebook and other networks. I thought I would share them all here. The following pictures came to me a few months later via a logger who was asked to give them a test run and report on his likes and dislikes. You can see them all on my Flickr page by clicking here.
The biggest, most obvious changes of course are the cab and engine hood design. Others include a totally redesigned boom and arch for the skidder and a new skidder axle design that appears to be a severe duty outside planetary axle with about 200 lug nuts. Aside from that there does not appear to be anything earth-shattering. Of course its what is under the hood that matters and what’s in the cab in terms of operator experience. Right away you can tell that the cab appears to support both a steering wheel and joystick steer together, perhaps with the ability to switch back and forth based on operator preference. This may be a nice improvement, albeit a costly add on.
The question begs to be asked, how many improvements can loggers afford. It looks like Deere is going for a Cadillac design and I am not sure that most loggers can afford that. Now, I say that but Tigercat models have been very successful and they are the most expensive in most markets by a fairly wide margin. We will have to wait and see.