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What is a Tiltrotator?

By Paul Scott
Updated May 17, 2024
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A tiltrotator is a powered extension used on the booms of backhoe and excavator machines which allows any tools attached to them to rotate through 360° and be tilted at angles from 30° and 40°. This range of motion extends the flexibility of a machine considerably when compared to standard attachment methods which restrict the tools' motion to the boom axis alone. Tiltrotator fittings are controlled from the operator's cab and, along with the tools attached to them, are driven by the machine's hydraulic system. Most tools commonly used on these machines, including grapples, augers, buckets, and compactors, are compatible with tiltrotator attachments

Earth moving and excavation machines such as backhoes and excavators and other heavy equipment. generally feature tool attachment methods which only allow a tool to follow the boom's linear axis of movement. Although functional, this limited range of motion can restrict the functionality of the machine. Tiltrotator attachments extend this range of tool motion significantly by rotating the tool through 360° around the boom axis and tilting it away from the boom at up to 40°. When considering the additional range of motion they make possible, tiltrotators can well be thought of as wrist joints for these machines.

Essentially the tiltrotator is a hydraulically driven, multi-axis gimble platform equipped with a tool type lock mechanism on its top and a boom lock attachment below. The rotator thus forms a modular addition to the machine's boom, locking into place where the tool would normally be attached. Auxiliary hydraulic lines are attached to the tiltrotator fittings supplying it with power. The machine tool is then attached to the tiltrotator in the normal fashion. The hydraulic feed powers both the rotator and the tool, with both being controlled from the operators cab.

As the tool attachment fittings are the same as those on the boom, a full range of tools may be utilized with the rotator in place. These fittings include multipurpose grabs, grapples, forklift fittings, augers, all types of buckets, hydraulic hammers, and compactors. Courtesy of the tiltrotator's remote locking system, the tools may be disengaged and changed by the operator without leaving the cab. The additional motion range offered by these attachments allow machines to excavate around buildings, poles, or trees without having to move the machine. Moving pipes, rocks, tree stumps, and other common site obstacles is also far easier and can be achieved with considerably less soil disturbance.

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