Caterpillar revolutionised the operation of motor graders with the introduction of joystick controls and a suite of advanced machine control solutions delivering enhanced operability and boosting productivity. In this article Caterpillar Product Specialist, Darren Hodge details developments to date and introduces the latest Cat® technology to increase performance.
More than a decade ago, Cat motor graders revolutionised the industry with the introduction of joysticks for steering and implement control on the all new M Series.
The new technology used electro over hydraulic (EH) control systems and has proven exceptional in reducing operator fatigue and allowing easier multi-function work compared to traditional lever controlled hydraulic systems.
“Since then technology has evolved rapidly and the construction industry has embraced new innovations that simplifies work and finish grade with greater accuracy and higher productivity,” Mr Hodge said.
“The EH controls allowed Caterpillar designers to continuously develop the building blocks for innovative Automated Grade Control features that we see now – solutions to keep the construction industry moving ahead.”
Reflecting on the technology changes over the past years, Mr Hodge said the original Cat grade control technology began with an AccuGrade™ ready option.
“This provided cab switches, software and electrical harnesses for the easy retro-fit of aftermarket 2D Cross Slope kits, 3D GNSS and laser machine control and guidance kits,” Mr Hodge said.
Soon after this, integrated Cat® Grade Control Cross Slope System was developed as a factory installed option.
“The Cross Slope feature automatically controls one end of the blade maintaining the desired road crown slope with any change in elevation.”
“This reduces operator fatigue and creates greater productivity, accuracy and consistency in road slope design finish,” he added.
“The option included all sensors, the electronic controls and display and was fully calibrated ready to go out of the factory.
“Compared to traditional aftermarket installation requiring expensive bolt on displays, valve blocks and electronics, this factory option linked into existing EH system and the AccuGrade ready option and meant a substantial cost reduction for customers wanting greater levels of performance and accuracy.”
Cat Grade Control Cross Slop is now fitted to more than 90 per cent of Cat grader sales, Mr Hodge added.
More recently, new Advance Control Joysticks represent another generational change.
Replacing the side switches for automated slope settings, all Grade Control operation is controlled from these joysticks for even greater safety and additional functionality such as being able to save multiple favourite slope settings and swap slope features.
“These systems were the building blocks for greater accuracy and complex design control for customers and enabled the industry to easily retrofit 3D technology to Cat Motor Graders much simpler, more efficiently and at significantly lower cost than before.”
However, Cat technology development continues apace and the latest machine control and guidance release offers even greater productivity.
“Building off our great legacy is the new Mastless GRADE with 3D option,” Mr Hodge said.
“The new Mastless GRADE with 3D system on Cat motor graders integrates the GNSS receivers and IMU grade sensors that work to compensate for the machine’s acceleration and position changes to deliver a superior finish.
“The operator can position the grader and blade in the most productive position with no compromise to grade quality and with no masts to interfere with visibility or performance,” Mr Hodge explained.
“Wheel lean, drawbar offsets and frame articulation can be positioned without restriction from masts or cables.
“This expands the use of the grader in finishing applications such as side slopes and drains where guidance was not previously possible due to the mast positions,” Mr Hodge added.
Automatic blade control reduces operator inputs and the number of passes to finish the job – saving time and money.
The operator also benefits from the new Android touch screen display, which puts the design plan clearly in front of the operator and operates like a tablet. Grade control buttons are now integrated into the joystick controls for seamless operation.
“This means the operator can focus on the job at hand without worrying about constant grade checking,” Mr Hodge said.
“Mastless GRADE with 3D means operators get to the design plan faster and with more accuracy and increased efficiency,” Mr Hodge said.
“This also reduces rework costs, fuel, labour and material costs and of course, boosts productivity.
“Importantly it can be used on all phases of the job and in more applications, including bank slope, mixing materials, cutting passes, ditch building, back slope and high bank,” Mr Hodge said.
The mastless integrated system allows for closer proximity work such as alongside buildings while maintaining accurate grade.
Having the technology factory integrated eliminates messy, expensive retrofits of aftermarket systems that do not necessarily integrate well with existing machine systems.
“When factory fitted, Cat technology solutions are fully calibrated for optimal performance and, most importantly, all supported with factory warranty and backing of the dealer network,” Mr Hodge said.
The GNSS receivers are integrated into the cab roof and front frame for better line of sight and nothing needs to be removed at the end of the shift or for transport.
The new Mastless GRADE with 3D feature available on T4f emission version models is now available from Cat dealers and comes fitted with industry exclusive E-Fence technology.
“The new Mastless GRADE with 3D option out of the factory comes standard with an E-Fence feature that prevents the moldboard from hitting the tyres and ladders and stops the circle from potentially damaging the link bar,” Mr Hodge said.
“E-Fence helps protect the machine so you can focus on the task at hand,” Mr Hodge added.
“The new Mastless GRADE with 3D option and E-Fence is another example of Caterpillar innovation and technology leading the way; setting a course for our customers to be more successful.”