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Yanmar celebrates 30 years of zero-tail-swing ViO excavators

A small excavator sits at the top of a sloped trench.
Yanmar's ViO series of zero-tail-swing excavators kicked off 30 years ago, helping to popularize the design. Yanmar CE

The ViO series of zero-tail-swing excavators from Yanmar Compact Equipment first launched in 1993, helping to popularize the concept and giving excavators an easier way to work in confined locations. Today, 30 years later, the zero-tail-swing design continues to be popular in many machine sizes.

The launch 30 years ago of the Yanmar CE ViO range of compact excavators caused a sensation. Unlike other excavators of its kind at the time, at no stage of its rotation did the rear of the ViO cab/superstructure extend beyond its tracks. This meant that the machines could operate in the tightest of spaces without fear of a rear collision with nearby buildings, vehicles - or people. The concept was embraced by the global industry and soon displaced as much as 70 percent of the standard models on work sites.

Although zero-tail-swing excavators are now a dominant part of the compact equipment market, Yanmar says the ViO is still leading the way 30 years on. Collectively, many thousands of collisions and accidents have been avoided, and work in the tightest of spots has been made possible.

The zero-tail-swing concept is much more clever than just shrinking the size of the superstructure. In traditional excavators having a protruding counterweight at the rear of the excavator is useful in balancing loads at the front, when lifting or digging, for example. But with this removed, the engineers at Yanmar CE needed to create similar counterweight forces by other means, while still maintaining impressive lift capacity.

The ViO is versatile and able to work in the tightest and narrowest of job sites. Now in its 7th generation, the range has expanded and is still going strong. Recently the designed-for-Japan ViO80-7 was declared a winner in this year's prestigious Japan Institute of Design Promotion's 2023 Good Design Award.

The ViO zero-tail-swing concept has consistently developed over the last 30 years. The ViO17 is a good example of the current breed. Neither the counterweight, nor the front part of the upper frame extend beyond the track width. This gives the 4,023-pound (1.8-metric ton) model an extremely tight turning radius. And yet, thanks to its 4-foot, 2-inch (1,280-mm wide) undercarriage, large counterweight, and good weight distribution, it equals or surpasses conventional machines, as well as having great lifting capabilities.

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