Features, Industry News, Load & Haul

ONTRAC Group delivers a not-so-normal bucket


The XMOR® excavator bucket is revolutionising the earthmoving industry globally, enabling increased payload without increasing the suspended load. Quarry finds out more from ONTRAC, the bucket’s licensed manufacturer in Australia.

For many years, a popular mindset for both manufacturers and end-users of excavator buckets has been: ‘It’s got to look tough to be tough’. But an innovative design approach and the smart use of premium super steels is challenging that mindset.

The modern bucket looks nothing like its heavy, sharp-cornered predecessors. The XMOR bucket has been designed to increase service life, while providing productivity increase of up to 20 per cent without increasing the suspended load. 

Changing the scenes for the mining, quarrying and earthmoving industries in selected markets, such as North America, Africa and Australia, the XMOR bucket range has been engineered to challenge conventional bucket configurations by utilising new design techniques and materials. 

Quarry sat down with Adrian Attwood, director of the ONTRAC Group, whose company is the only licensed manufacturer of XMOR buckets in Australia for excavators up to 120 tonnes.

“The simple science behind XMOR,” he said, “is exchanging bucket weight for payload.”

“This is achieved through a combination of highly innovative design, coupled with the exclusive properties of Hardox® and Strenx® premium steels by SSAB, which makes the XMOR bucket up to 15 to 30 per cent lighter than a conventional bucket.

“The Strenx performance steel by SSAB is a 700-grade high strength structural steel and Hardox 500 Tuf is one of the highest grades of wear plates. The advantage with 500 Tuf is that it is still as workable as the 450 grade, but it provides up to 47 per cent longer service life.”

Lighter weight

Design considerations contribute to the reduced plate thickness in XMOR, while a unique patented keel design further reduces weight and enables more structural stability to the bucket. The result is a bucket that can handle more load, resulting in higher productivity without upsizing the existing machinery on a site.

“The ultimate outcome, of course, is to increase the payload inside the bucket by up to 25 per cent,” Attwood said. “In some situations, we’ve achieved up to 50 per cent increase in payload. That’s because the previous buckets had been so incorrectly sized for the machine that the difference with XMOR was even more tangible.”

The smart design also means the thickness of the steels in the bucket are optimised to reduce weight and increase strength; maintaining service life and resulting in a weight save.

“If you pick up a piece of Hardox 500 Tuf and use it in a bucket in the same way as done traditionally with wear plates, you are not getting any advantages other than the hardness of the material,” Attwood said.

“What XMOR has done with the design, is utilise the properties of Hardox 500 Tuf and Strenx 700 to reduce the thickness of the material, without compromising service life, ultimately resulting in increased payload.” 

A practical design approach and the smart use of premium super steels give XMOR superior properties.

Licensed manufacturer

As a specialised manufacturer of excavator buckets based in Melbourne, ONTRAC has been using the Hardox wear plate to manufacture buckets for many years. The company is a member of the global ‘Hardox in My Body’ community, a collective of global manufacturers collaborating with each other and with SSAB to build highly productive equipment using Hardox material.

XMOR is a groundbreaking new product range for buckets and tipper bodies that form  a network of high quality partners to help the industry take full advantage of the latest designs and properties of Hardox steel. While ONTRAC’s history of using Hardox made it a favoured candidate to represent XMOR products in Australia, Attwood said other factors also contributed to the partnership.

“Most traditional bucket manufacturers follow a cookie-cutter approach, where they mass produce a bucket and then try and match that to a machine,” Attwood said. “Our approach is far from it. We specialise on innovative products that add advantages to the industry. Whether it’s building a bucket for digging through merciless rock or maximising the outcome of a machine, we are always engineering a bucket to suit the ultimate outcome.”

It was this approach that helped ONTRAC win the exclusive partnership with XMOR to use its proprietary design for buckets.

“The XMOR network was looking for a business partner that was aligned with its values around maximising performance, reliability and productivity of buckets. We also had to go through certain qualification processes before being granted the licence for manufacturing,” Attwood explained.

Innovative design

One of the most innovative aspects of the XMOR bucket is its unique keel design. The inverted shape of the keel helps minimise ground contact and, by extension, wear on the bottom of the bucket. The keel saddle is also designed to absorb the brunt of the heavy impact, saving the bucket from more expensive repairs.

“The inverted keel design is not only helping with the wear situation, but it also acts as a structural member in the bucket. This further reduces the amount of steel required in the bucket,” Attwood said. 

“Inside the bucket, using the Hardox 500 Tuff wear plate and a wear pad on the wear-prone areas give the bucket longer service life without increasing its weight.”

The round smooth surfaces of the XMOR bucket are designed to reduce bucket drag, and to allow material to slide into the bucket, further minimising wear.

The curved surfaces are also ideal for reducing drag on the bucket’s surface, Attwood said.

“The rounded corners mean there are no sharp edges to wear or drag. The back of the bucket easily rides in the wake of the cutting edge, which allows the bucket to cop more load. The convex curved shape of the cutting edge lends itself to an ideal shape for maximising production.”


XMOR’s innovations further extend to practical aspects in the field. An example is the patented heel segments, which replace the heavy welded heel blocks in conventional buckets. These bolt-on heel segments are specifically designed by the XMOR team using Hardox steel to make fast changing time possible.

“We cannot stop wear, but when it happens, we want to make it easy to replace the worn elements,” Attwood said. 

“One of our clients has reported that they were able to change the mechanically connected XMOR wing shrouds in a single shift, rather than having to take the bucket offline for days, sometimes weeks, to weld new corner segments in conventional buckets. Obviously, a week offline is a week of lost production. It’s also a week worth of labour to carry out the task.”

ONTRAC also provides a range of Hardox consumables specifically designed for the XMOR bucket’s aftersales support.

ONTRAC Group is the only licensed manufacturer of XMOR buckets in Australia, for excavators up to 120 tonnes.

Custom manufacturing

ONTRAC manufactures XMOR buckets in two configurations: The BHB-series and the BHC-series. Further customisations are possible within each series.

“Each bucket design targets the varied rock densities and conditions we experience here in Australia. Typically, the BHB is suitable to bulk earthworks and lighter duty applications, whilst the BHC steps up the flight to handle severe and abrasive rock conditions,” Attwood explained.

“The B-series, starting at 50 tonne, has a curled lip on the front, which wraps up around the side. The C-series, starting at 80 tonne, has a traditional flat lip, and can handle more ground and hard-wearing material.”

Buckets from either series can also be designed with different configurations to perfectly match the application, Attwood explained.

“For each customer or dealer, we offer to conduct a discovery session, where we look at what’s happening on site, the material type and density, the size of the blast, the downstream equipment and the machine combination. It’s important for us to know the make and model of the excavator and its boom and stick length to ensure the machine’s stability. Then, we will carefully craft or size the bucket to suit that machine, thereby optimising the performance of the end user.”

Return on investment

To prove the cost savings possible with the right bucket, ONTRAC also allows its customers to conduct a free value analysis report, to showcase the return on investment and the total cost savings when investing into a premium XMOR bucket.

“If we know what the fuel burn of the machine is, how much the customer is paying per litre for the fuel and how many hours a day they run the machine, we can demonstrate to them in a certificate from XMOR how much fuel they’ll save, in dollars and litres, and how much carbon-dioxide emissions they will produce over a period of time,” Attwood said.

“These additional savings can easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. So, we are not only increasing production, but it also reflects in additional cost savings for the company.”

One of the most innovative aspects of the XMOR bucket is its unique keel design.

The result, Attwood observed, is a very fast return on investment for quarries.

“Most of the reports we have generated for customers have shown a return on investment of about one to three months, purely off the back of reduced fuel consumption. When you calculate the cost savings from reducing the number of passes required to fill a truck and all the other benefits of the added productivity, it’s the difference between night and day.”

On busy quarry sites, the difference between using an XMOR bucket and a conventional bucket is reflected in the productive times of all equipment.

“When you are on a quarry and there are trucks lined up to be filled by the excavator, the difference with an efficient bucket like XMOR can be the difference of filling a truck in seven passes, as opposed to what would have been 13 previously. If you consider the flow-on effect, this has an astronomical impact on labour, fuel savings, and optimising the whole process.”

Attwood’s recommendation to quarries is to try maximising their productivity by choosing the right bucket.

“For anybody eager to increase production at minimal expense, XMOR is the only way to go,” he said. “We have situations where clients have a production issue, but they can’t afford to upgrade their machines. Converting to an XMOR bucket is simply taking your foot off the hose and getting more done in less time, with less personnel.”

To find out more visit the ONTRAC GROUP website.

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