Komatsu SmartFlow – New Hydraulic System for Forwarder

Komatsu SmartFlow Hydraulics

Komatsu Forest showed its new technology SmartFlow for forwarders at Elmia Wood 2017, we received a review and a test run, watch the video further down.

SmartFlow came a little in the shadows in Komatsu’s feed and stand at Elmia, the Komatsu 901XC took a lot of attention, maybe a bit sad for those who missed it, but we’ll try to explain.

As we like to go deep in tech, we think it’s a little restraint attitude from Komatsu when it comes to SmartFlow. What we could get from them is that it is a new system for crane hydraulics and will be available as an option to primarily the larger Komatsu fowarders 855, 875 and later also probably 895. Sales start is set to September 2017, in Sweden.

SmartFlow run-down

A new, digitally controlled, hydraulic valve kit that offers far more and exact control over the crane movements on a forwarder. The digital control allows developers at Komatsu to program the machine computer in a completely different way. SmartFlow can also be programmed in a way so active damping of crane movements can be applied, with no changes on the acutal crane.

Technology leap?

SmartFlow may not sound much but we think this can be a start of a technology leap in forest machine technology. For up to 20 years, valve kits for forwarders has been pretty much the same. Parker LS90 and K170 have dominated the market and they have done so because they have been functioning well. They are analogue though and with this they have their limitations nowadays.

As stated we do not currently know which manufacturer supplying Komatsu with the new valve. It can be Parker with a completely new valve, at can be Danfoss and also Eaton/Vickers.

We will investigate this and keep you updated.

Take Eatons new valve kit CMA for example. It is equipped with a digital CAN-bus interface and comes with pressure, temperature, spool position and flow sensors built-in. This, combined with accurate spool control makes the valve “intelligent” in a new way. Komatsu also states that the new valve also reduces pressure losses.

Eaton CMA can-bus valve

Contractor advantages

Contractors is in a constant chase for more efficiency and profit. We’ll see how contractors world wide will recieve SmartFlow. It is an option that includes investment of course. The advantages is a better ergonomy for the operator, better performance, at least for beginners and fuel savings up to 4% according to Komatsu.
I’ve got a chance to test SmartFlow and I must say there seems to be a big difference compared to a regular valve for hydraulic systems for forwarders. It is more precise and more forgiving when moving the crane with the levers.

Active Crane Damping

With the new valve Komatsu was also able to add another feature to the system – crane damping. It does not include end position damping, but it perform very well when it comes to even out spikes and sudden movements. A good example is in the video below. Straining the crane going full speed down with logs in the grapple and then let go of the levers usually means alot of vibrations and tensions, right down to the frame and cabin. With active damping all of this is gone and the crane stops real smooth.

What do You think about this? Leave a comment or discuss the system in the forum.

Komatsu SmartFlow Testkörning


  1. I have been in unofficial contact with a Komatsu employee about this. He claimed not to know all details but said that the valve in use is a standard Parker directional valve. They are also using hydraulic cylinders with precision position transducers (sensor).
    The valve is a said to be a regular spool valve. The common way to use a spool valve is to let the one single spool control both the meter-in pump flow to the hydraulic cylinder and meter-out return flow from the hydraulic cylinder.
    To get better control over the meter-out return flow from the cylinder, which many times is affected by crane inertia and weight of the load, Kamatsu is according to my source, using one separate spool valve for meter-in pump flow, and another separate spool valve for the meter out return flow. We can call this independently controlled flow metering. With this system, the cylinder speed and motion of the crane can be better controlled, and also minimize throttling energy losses over the valve orifice.

    Eaton has already, 2016, introduced this type of valve CMA, with independently controlled flow metering. It means that each valve section has two separately controlled spools which also has position transducers for more exact flow metering. On top of that, each work port each has a pressure transducer.

    This image shows the principles of Komatsu’s solution (not publicly verified), the standard way of valve connection and how the Eaton CMA valve connects.
    So how all this will come out we will see around the 1st of September 2017, at the time when Komatsu plans to introduce forwarders with the SmartFlow system

  2. Not a lot of news to share about SmartFlow and the directional valve used.

    But beside the SmartFlow system, it seems like Parker has added its own idea of “intelligent” and “independent” metering out control.
    This Parker K220LS EcoFormance valve seems to have gotten “intelligence” together with pressure and spool position sensors) enough to handle independent meter in – meter out with a “single spool” design

    Parker K220LS PDF

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