3D Grade Assist, Bulldozer on steep slope

Published on May 21, 2021

Increase Accuracy and Productivity Through 2D and 3D Technology

Finding the right balance between on-site experience and machine technology can be tricky to navigate for some owners and operators. While new factory fit and aftermarket technology platforms continue to push the envelope of machine capabilities and performance, finding talented operators to run machines is increasingly difficult. Since your company’s approach, expertise, and experience can vary greatly from another, the question becomes: what is the best platform for your company to optimize job site productivity and enable operator success? We’re going to explore some options in this post that will hopefully take some of the guesswork out of answering that question.

The first thing you need to know is that the technologies addressed in this post are scalable, or stackable. That means that if you engage at the 2D level, you are already taking the steps toward 3D because each of the machine control systems outlined here are built on a common platform that allows for upgrades without loss of investment. In other words, you don’t replace a system; you increase its versatility and productivity across applications by adding the appropriate hardware and software.

A good first step is to examine the 2D Cat® Grade Slope Assist, which is ideal for simple slopes and flatwork. This technology system automatically maintains the operator-defined blade position relative to the machine’s body, increasing pass-to-pass accuracy and consistency. With 2D Cat® Grade Slope Assist you can increase the productivity of your simple grading jobs by up to 40%. In addition, the Slope Assist reduces the operator inputs by more than 80%, which means less fatigue for experienced operators and a quicker learning curve for less experienced operators to maximize machine performance.

From Cat Grade Slope Assist, you can move into the 2D Trimble® Earthworks Laser platform, which is more advanced and utilizes laser receivers to accurately control the position of the dozer or motor grader cutting edge relative to a grade laser. 2D Trimble Earthworks or Cat Grade 2D on excavators utilize sensors to provide cutting edge position relative to the machine and a laser catcher to set your elevation reference, setting depth and slope targets on the machine display. As another add-on to your Trimble Earthworks or Cat Grade platform, you might also consider a quality, precision laser from Spectra®, which is available in level, single, or dual slope configurations.

In addition to machines, consider a Trimble Base and Rover system, which allows you to conduct and control your own survey workflow. Trimble’s Siteworks construction surveying software utilizes 3D engineered design data, ensuring you have the ability to check grade, place stakes, perform in-field volume calculations, and much more. Not only will you enhance productivity, but you can fulfill these tasks without the need for a third-party surveyor. It will even record the location of existing stakes so you can replace them when they are inevitably wiped out. Plus, having a Trimble base and rover on your job site means you are ready to rent or purchase Trimble Earthworks or a Cat Grade 3D equipped machine.

If you are ready to take it to the next level, you can begin to explore 3D machine control options. These platforms offer a lot of advantages including GPS technology that provides Real Time Kinematic (RTK) positioning and machine control. GPS machine control works outdoors and with a clear view of the sky, regardless of the weather. Using the same 3D design that is in the Trimble Siteworks Rover, you can increase the productivity of your machines by putting the site design at the operator’s fingertips. No matter where they are on-site, they will be able to track cut/fills and engage automatic blade control to help them get to grade faster and avoid over or undercutting. Trimble Earthworks and Cat Grade 3D are the most advanced GPS machine control systems on the market. Cat Grade and Trimble Earthworks software use advanced positioning algorithms and more satellites than ever before to offer unprecedented performance, accuracy, and ease of use. Plus, we offer cab mounted solutions (no more masts on the blade!) for dozers and motor graders, and body mount excavator systems.

Universal Total Station (UTS) machine control is another 3D solution worth investigating. UTS utilizes 20Hz communications protocols and line-of-sight control to keep 25-ton earthmovers accurate to less than a quarter inch. Trimble UTS systems thrive in areas where GPS machine control might not, including indoors or other signal-challenged environments, or where the highest accuracy is a necessity. You might also consider material cost when considering UTS. In applications where single-digit overrun percentages can be the difference between a profitable job or not, UTS is the premiere solution to ensure you keep your volumes controlled and your grade exact.

What is even more exciting is these technologies are available in both aftermarket and factory-fit options, so you do not have to wait for your next machine to get engaged. When you are ready to for a new machine, you will be able to seamlessly integrate a factory-installed system into your operations.

We’ve covered a lot here, so if you have questions or would like more clarification on how any of these platforms can be customized for your business, give us a call. Ziegler CAT and SITECH Northland are always here to help educate you on which technology options are best suited for your company, please contact us at 952.884.1444.


Posted In: Technology

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