A longtime producer of half-lane and full-lane cold planers, Astec has entered a new class size with its RX-405 cold planer, delivering milling widths of 2 to 5 feet.
Kyle Neisen, product director for Astec, says the smaller milling machine can fill new markets for the company in residential, utility and commercial segments.
“It’s a versatile, small machine,” said Neisen at the RX-405’s debut at ConExpo in March. “So lots are going to use it for 2-foot trenching, parking lots, residential stuff. It’s not mainline. It’s everything else.”
It can also serve as an entry-level cold planer for smaller contractors, as well as help experienced contractors take care of the smaller jobs without bringing in a larger machine.
“It’s a new range for us,” Neisen says. “I think we’ve done the half-lane and full-lane sizes very well throughout the years. And there’s a lot of the market that is in that smaller class, kind of the commercial class, that we can help cover.”
Astec focused on ergonomics for operators with the new cold planer and added a feature designed to save operators’ hands and the controls from passing trees. Operators can now adjust a new mechanism that tilts the controls out of the way.
“Trees hitting joysticks is a very real problem in the industry,” Neisen says. “Guys have to hold onto the joystick and just take a hit from a tree sometimes. I know certain contractors that keep a chainsaw on their mill all the time to just chop the trees as they go.
“So this will help block the trees.”
The same tilt mechanism can turn the controls all the way over for storage and protection when the machine is not in use. The controls are also designed for what Neisen calls “no-look operation.”
“Typically, operators are watching their cut all day, and they’re watching the truck in front of them,” he explains. “They can’t constantly look down. So we’ve laid it out where you can feel and know exactly what your hands are on without needing to look down.”
Astec also made it easy to change the cutting drums. A hinged door on the side of the cutting house opens for quick access to the drum. “Normally you need a crane to move this whole thing out of the way,” Neisen says. “We don’t have to do that anymore.”
The single cutter housing can also transition between 2 and 5 feet wide, thanks to the Variable Cutter System. The operator can change drums to cut at widths of 24, 36, 48 or 60 inches without changing the cutter housing.
“So the drum switches out, the cutter housing stays the same,” he says. “That makes it very easy to be versatile. And if you’re doing trench work for the county one day and then you need to go to a parking lot the next day, you can do that very easily.”
Drum changes have also been made safer. A belt lifter takes the belt off the main engine sheave, which keeps the engine from turning the drum, so no more worries about the engine engaging it. A drum indexer enables the technician to turn the drum by remote control to get it in the right spot. That means no longer having to manually pull on the drum.
As for productivity, the RX-405 is heavy for its class at 46,900 pounds. It also has a Cummins engine that is 430 horsepower, which is near the top of the milling machine’s class size. And it is equipped with a large water tank for longer workdays.
“Take this machine out and let it work as long as it needs,” he says. “Sometimes these are two-hour jobs; sometimes these are three-day jobs, and we want you to be able to go out and perform, no matter which job you’re taking them to.”
Astec offers an optional rear object detection system to spot objects behind the cold planer. The system includes buttons at the back to temporarily halt the machine from reversing. “If you plan to walk behind the machine, you can simply press the button on one side and stop the machine – tap either side button again when no longer behind the machine,” Neisen says. “When any of those buttons are engaged, the machine will not allow the operator to go in reverse.”
Another feature is Astec’s Automated Control of Elevation, or ACE, for setting 2D slope and grade control. That can be done at the ground controls or the onboard operator station. The system continuously displays grade and slope, which can be adjusted in real time. It can be paired with Auto-Cut, which elevates the rear as it enters each cut.
For 3D milling control, the ACE system works with major aftermarket vendors like Trimble, Leica and Topcon.
Retail shipping for the RX-405 is scheduled to start by the end of this year, Neisen says.