Excavator History: The Industrial Revolution Through the Centuries

Excavator History: The Industrial Revolution Through the Centuries

I. Introduction:

A. Excavator, also known as excavator. It consists of a rotating platform, a bucket , a robotic arm, and a cab. It is an earth-moving machine that excavates materials with a bucket and loads theminto transport vehicles or unloads them into stockyards.

B.Construction machinery is an important part of the equipment manufacturing industry, among which excavators are the most important. It is a multi-purpose earth-rock construction machine, mainly for excavating earth-rock, loading, and also for land leveling, house demolition, digging ditches and other operations, so it is used in road construction such as roads and railways, bridge construction, urban construction, airports, ports and water conservancy. widely used in construction.


(An excavator under road construction)

C.So in this article, I would like to introduce in detail the evolution history of excavators and their impact on current construction machinery. If you are interested, please continue reading.

 II.Evolution and Development of Excavators

A.Simple digging tools used by ancient humans

In the ancient Stone Age, due to the backwardness of technology and civilization, people could only use stones to make simple tools for hunting and gathering food

(Pictorial description of the Stone Age, painting by Viktor Vasnetsov.)

B.The impetus of the industrial revolution to the development of excavators

The origins of modern excavating machinery can be traced back to the late 15th century. In Italy, where water shipping is the main mode of transportation, silt dredgers appeared. The silt dredging ship consists of two small boats side by side, with a runner set up between the sides. A bucket is installed on the runner, driven by manpower, so that the bucket goes into the bottom of the river to dig out the river silt and clean the river. However, the bucket capacity of the early excavators was very small, less than 1 cubic meter, and the driving method was also by manpower. In the 18th century, the appearance of the steam engine caused the industrial revolution, which make the excavator start to change from manpower drive to mechanical drive.


 C.The advent of the modern excavator

a)Birth of the first steam excavator  

During 1833-1835, William Otis, a railway engineer in Philadelphia, USA, was driven by a steam engine and installed a boom-type single-bucket excavator on a railway flat car. It adopts an iron-wood hybrid structure, and the rotation of the boom is still drawn by manpower and ropes, and belt excavation is realized by continuously extending the rails. This is the originator of the excavator in modern history.

 The first modern excavator to achieve separation from human-driven machines. And the design of excavating equipment using steam power has been used until the 1920s.

 b)Developments in excavators

After the baptism of the second industrial revolution and two world wars, the excavator industry has also achieved historic development. Steam power began to be replaced by gasoline-powered engines and diesel-powered engines. Power began to increase, construction jobs were completed more safely and efficiently, and curved boom designs were introduced.



 D.Technological Innovation and Progress of Excavators

a)The Emergence and Revolutionary Impact of the Hydraulic Excavator

When the time came to 1947, hydraulic technology began to stand out, and JCB from the United Kingdom took the lead in developing the first hydraulic excavator. It replaces the traditional mechanical transmission system, which reduces digging force and enhances flexibility. This is the first time hydraulic systems have entered the public eye. After four years of hydraulic technology innovation and development, the French Poclain company launched the world's first fully hydraulic front shovel excavator.Also known as the second generation excavator. It uses a Dodge 4x4 modified wheeled chassis with a car cab in the front and a hydraulic excavator in the rear. The upper body consisting of console, hydraulic arm, bucket, etc. rotates around the column above the rear axle of the chassis. The capacity of the square bucket is about 1 cubic meter.


 Hydraulic excavators have revolutionized the world of excavation and engineering. The powerful hydraulic system enables it to handle heavy loads and complete tasks quickly. They also raise safety standards by reducing manual labor and reducing the risk of accidents. Overall, the introduction of hydraulic excavators has greatly improved the efficiency and safety of excavation operations.

b)The advent of electric excavators

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the rise of electronic technology gave birth to mechatronic hydraulic excavators. Compared with traditional excavators, electronic excavators are superior in energy utilization and environmental protection. The electric drive system is used to reduce energy consumption and emissions, and reduce environmental impact. Among them, Komatsu PC05-7 is a classic product of mechatronics technology, which can independently determine the driving route and use sensors to feed back information in real time.

   c)The development trend of automation and intelligent excavators

With the vigorous development of intelligence and 5G technology,construction machinery is developing in a more intelligent direction. Brands like Carter, Komatsu, John Deere, and Volvo have become one of the representatives of smart devices today.


For example, Caterpillar's 395 model is an improved and upgraded product based on the 309F, providing more choices and adaptability. Users can select power mode, smart mode and eco mode. The model is also equipped with Product Link™ technology to track and monitor excavator data through the VisionLink online interface. Users can obtain information such as location, working hours, fuel consumption, production efficiency, etc., to optimize workflow and resource allocation.


Excavators are important tools in the construction industry and have an irreplaceable status. It has strong power and high efficiency, reduces human labor, and is a powerful assistant on construction sites. In the 21st century with the rapid development of science and technology, we can believe that the development and popularization of unmanned automatic excavators are getting closer to us.

If you are interested in excavators, or you would like to purchase Caterpillar excavator parts you can view and purchase an online catalog of aftermarket Caterpillar parts.

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