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A Review of the Different Types of Bulldozer Blades: Straight Blades, SU Blades, U Blades, and Angle Blades

A bulldozer's primarily function, simply put, is clearing ground. However, these machines also come with a wide variety of attachments enabling them to perform a wide variety of tasks. The most common attachment is a blade.

Bulldozer blades push away the objects cleared from the land, including dirt, rock, and sand. The blade is not only the most common attachment, it is also the most important, and getting the right kind of blade for the job is a key component of your project's success. Blades are designed to work with different types of ground cover, and you need to understand the characteristics of both the land you're clearing and the blades in order to choose the right one for the job.

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The most common blades are the straight, U, SU, and angle. Using the blade specifically designed for your conditions leads to higher productivity, less wear and tear on your equipment, fuel savings, and optimum results.

Straight or ā€œSā€ Blade

Sometimes called an S blade, the bulldozer arms attach to the lower back corners of a straight blade, ensuring no angle (hence the name "straight"). Angle braces help stabilize the blade, and these may include a hydraulic tilt cylinder for purposes of adjustment. Operators use the tilt feature to concentrate cutting force and allow the bulldozer to perform operations such as crowning and ditching.

The bulldozer's ability to carry materials is limited with the S blade, though skilled operators often use a push trough to enhance carrying capabilities.

Where the S blade excels is in working with medium to hard compact materials. This is a rugged blade with substantial weight. Coupled with its straight design, it is ideal for penetrating harder landscapes. Common applications include:

  • Backfilling
  • Ditching
  • Shaping
  • Stripping
  • Stumping

Experienced, skilled operators get the most out of straight blade bulldozers.

U Blade

A U blade has what it sounds like: a U shape. These blades are popular choices for loading and carrying material, since the U shape more securely holds materials, minimizing spillage. If you need to move soil across longer distances, the U blade is the one you want.

The U blade also mounts to the bulldozer at the lower back corners of the attachment, with similar stabilizing braces and hydraulic tilt cylinders. These cylinders improve ground penetration, though the blade is still best for soft to medium soils. When working with more compact surfaces, such as soft rock and hardpan, using a ripper attachment helps improve penetration. Common uses include:

  • Crowning
  • Ditching
  • Materials handling
  • Moving soil

SU Blade

The semi-U blade, commonly referred to as an SU, lives in the world between the straight and U blades. It also attaches to the bulldozer from the lower back portion of the blade, with stabilizing angle braces using either one or two hydraulic tilt cylinders. As with the S blade, these cylinders allow the blade greater penetration force and increase its versatility.

SU blades differ from S blades mainly in the curving sides at either end of the blade, which help reduce spillage. The result is improved load and carry capabilities for a broader range of applications, though SU blades have reduced penetration ability. For many jobs, however, the gains in materials handling efficiency make up for that loss of penetration. Common applications include:

  • Backfilling
  • Crowning
  • Ditching
  • Leveling
  • Stripping
  • Stumping

Use these blades on soft to medium hard soils. If you need to use an SU blade on hardpan (glacially compacted landscapes), you want to first loosen the ground with a ripper.

Angle Blade

Unlike the S, U, and SU blades, the angle blade mounts via a center-mounted C frame. This mounting allows the operator to angle the blade to the left and right for enhanced side casting. Older models used manual-screw tilt adjusters but newer units come with the same hydraulic tilts found on S, U, and SU bulldozer blades. Ideal applications for angle blades include:

  • Ditching
  • Shaping
  • Stripping
  • Stumping
  • Trail pioneering

Use the angle blade on soft to medium hard landscapes. As with the straight blade, the angle blade's design leads to greater spillage. Experienced operators account for this by creating troughs that allow for more efficient materials pushing.

Bottom Line

Before choosing your bulldozer blade, have a good idea of the landscape. Are you working with a lot of compacted rock, or soft, loose soil? Also, consider the details of the job itself. Does it require moving large quantities of dirt and rock over distances? If so, straight and angle blades probably aren't your best bet. If you also have a ripper, you may find the SU and U blades more versatile, but everything depends on your job's particular needs.

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