At last year’s Elmia Wood, the Estonian company Fors MW presented a concept for a completely new 8-ton forwarder. Then, only as illustrations and animations. Now, in real life as a prototype. It’s a machine with a weight/load ratio of 1:1, or load index 1. The colleagues at Skogsforum.se were at the launch in Estonia.
Farma LF 8
The company Fors MW, has manufactured log trailers and log loaders for over 30 years. At last year’s Elmia Wood show, the 8-ton forwarder Farma LF 8 was presented. A forwarder with load index 1 and the first “real” forest machine by Fors MW.
The idea to develop a forwarder originally came from the company’s founder, Leif Fors. Already in 2011, he had the goal set: To build a light, simple, and affordable forwarder. Unfortunately, Leif passed away too early in 2015 after suffering from cancer. The forwarder plans were then postponed.
When the coronavirus pandemic struck the World, Leif’s daughter, Ulrika Fors, and some of the employees decided to continue with the forwarder project. A development team, among others, was created with a former constructor at Alstor, John Nordlund. The project was led by Svante Högnert and responsible for the design was Henrik Götsten. The entire development and construction process has taken place in the Fors MW factory in Saue, close to Tallinn in Estonia.
The model’s name, LF 8, is for “Leif Fors 8-ton” forwarder. A tribute to a father and an entrepreneur.
A change of direction after the Elmia Wood 2022
Even though the machine wasn’t shown in real life at Elmia Wood, the response from the visitors was overwhelming. A small, narrow 8-ton forwarder with a load ratio of 1:1 seemed to be a winning concept, not only among forest owners. Many full-time contractors from several countries showed interest, forcing Ulrika and the team to rethink: Should it be a machine for private forest owners or a professional machine for full-time contractors?
The latter was decided. A high-quality machine but still simple and easy to maintain and repair.
The transmission is hydrostatic with one variable hydraulic motor for each wheel. This made it easier to build a simple, narrow but sustainable bogie without chains, gears, and bearings. Furthermore, it made it easier to control the speed and traction of each wheel individually.
Yet another advantage of this transmission is the elimination of the risk of “bogie rise” (when the bogie lifts itself on one wheel which makes the machine unstable in the terrain). The traction force is 120 kN according to Fors MW.
Fors MW claims that the machine can reach a speed of 27 kilometers per hour (17 mph) which is good for road transport at shorter distances. A hydraulic bogie lift will probably be offered optional which will lower the oil flow as you then (theoretically) can drive the machine with only four wheels.
100 kW CAT-engine
Under the hood, there is a 3,6-liter CAT engine of 100 kW (136 hp). It drives a Linde load-sensing hydraulic pump with a max pressure of 350 bar and a flow of up to 260 liters per minute. In the machine’s waist, a sensor that senses the steering angle is placed. This is to control the speed of each wheel depending on the angle and to avoid sliding and ground damage.
In the prototype, several pressure sensors are used for the development of the control-, transmission-, and hydraulic systems. The final layout and places for hydraulic valves, hoses, etc., will be decided later. The machine control is a Parker IQAN control system.
A narrow machine with 600-wheels
The prototype of the Farma LF 8 has 600-wheels which makes it 2.22 meters (7,3 ft) wide. With 500-wheels (that will be standard) the width is the same. It will also be possible to have 700-wheels on the LF 8. Then the width will be 2,42 meters (7,9 ft).
The loading area is 2,6 square meters (28 sq. feet) but the bunks could be extended by 10 centimeters (4 inches) on both sides. The length of the loading area is 3,7 meters (12 ft) but an extension of 0,6 meters (2 ft) will be offered as an option. It’s possible to have tracks on the rear bogies but on the front bogies, you will have to settle for chains.
Farma LF 8 with load index 1
It was launched as an 8-ton forwarder, but the loading capacity today is 8,5 tons. The choice of bogie- and transmission solution could be an explanation. The weight of the machine with 500-wheels and a Farma C6,7-loader, is “from 8,5 tons”. This means the magic goal of load index 1 is achieved.
The prototype is equipped with 600-wheels and the larger C8,0 X-CEL loader is a bit heavier. It is, however, still a light machine. The old Gremo 750F (not available anymore) had a payload of 8,5 tons and a machine weight of 10,5 tons and was 2,45 meters (8 ft) wide with 600-wheels. The John Deere 910G loads 9 tons, is 2,7 meters (8,9 ft) wide with 700-wheels, and weighs 14,7 tons. The Komatsu 825TX also loads 9 tons and is 2,6 meters (8,5 ft) wide with 600-wheels, weighing 14,6 tons.
Fors MW’s Farma loader on the prototype
The prototype was equipped with a Farma C8.0 X-CEL loader. It has 8 meters (26 ft) reach and a 0,24-grapple. As options, it could be equipped with the smaller Farma loaders C6,7, C7,2, or the slightly larger C8,5.
Spacious cabin of own design
The cab of the Farma LF 8 is spacious. It’s manufactured by a Swedish company, but the design is made by Fors MW. The cab of the prototype wasn’t complete with all the interiors. Despite the “naked” interior in the cab, the noise level was comfortable. This is promising for the final version of the cab.
According to Henrik Götsten, the design of the cab will be slightly modified before serial production starts. The can will be shortened to give more space between the can and the loader. The space in the cab will however still be more than enough.
Sales launch of the Farma LF 8
The route to the market looks like this: In February 2024 the production of a pre-series will start. A demo tour in Sweden is planned for the spring of 2024 (March-April). Sales in Sweden start before or after the summer of 2024 by which time the service and dealer net will be up and running as well.
After that, the Farma LF 8 will be displayed at the APF show in England in September 2024. Most likely also the Estonian market will be included in the early stages as the interest is large. The first deliveries of the LF 8 are planned for late 2024. Initially, Fors MW counts on building two machines per month.
Demonstration of the prototype
As mentioned above, the Skogsforum colleagues Torbjörn and Fredrik were invited to Estonia for a demo together with forestry journalists from England, Germany, Finland, Poland, and Sweden. Henrik Götsten was operating the machine and the guests could examine and film the machine as much as they wished. Below there are photos and a film from the demo day, including a chat with Henrik from the cab of the Farma LF 8. The day before the press launch, Fors MW’s dealers had been there to admire the machine and they seemed pleased with what they saw.
The Farma LF 8 seems to be a robust forwarder with low ground pressure. For markets with soft soil conditions, this should be an interesting machine. But the LF 8 will most likely not be a low-price alternative as it is well-designed with high-quality components. Nevertheless, there will be one or two forest owners who would like to have one. However, the main target group will be professional contractors specialized in thinning.
The machine is compact and smooth. The trailer follows the tractor exactly. The machine is short, the total length in the standard version is 8,43 meters (28 ft). The cab is spacious and offers a good view from all directions except maybe to the front as the motor hood is quite high. However, CAT will make an update that will allow a lower hood.
The size is interesting. Will it be a machine for professionals or forest owners?
Here is a film and a couple of more photos from the demo day in Estonia:
Film and photos: Skogsforum.se