With a focus on continuous improvement and providing owners with a competitive edge, Cat® track type tractors have been segment leaders for decades. Caterpillar Product and Application specialist Peter Witte brings Earthmoving Equipment Magazine up to date with the latest innovations to lower operational costs and build productivity.
Cat medium sized track type tractors have a suite of technology designed to improve performance, lower operating costs and deliver productivity gains, Caterpillar Product and Application specialist Peter Witte says.
“Customers benefit from the culture of continuous improvement and product development from Caterpillar to give them their competitive edge,” he said.
“What was once a humble ‘bulldozer’ has received numerous advancements over the past decade and is now a high production tool packed with features designed to deliver job site performance every day.”
He said recent Caterpillar developments included key machine control, guidance and technology developments as well as a focus on the power train.
“Machine control and guidance technology continues to take leaps and bounds in site acceptance over the past few years and when married with continuous machine performance will mean lower operating costs and reduced project expenses.”
The construction market was one segment to benefit from recent advances.
“In the past two years we have seen the introduction of machine features to assist contractors to lower their operating costs,” Mr Witte said.
“One key improvement has been the powertrain.”
The recently released D6N has increased power and a lock-up clutch torque converter linked to a transmission with an enhanced auto-shifting feature.
“This combination gives you the performance efficiencies of direct drive with the ease of operation of power shift and transmission controls that will automatically select the drive mode best suited to your application,” Mr Witte said.
“The Enhanced Auto Shift helps you save fuel by automatically upshifting and/or downshifting to maintain the most efficient gear speed based on load.”
Operators can now select a 3, 6 or fine adjustment mode selection (9-ground speed) to give the best performance match to material and job site conditions in either forward or reverse.
“The operator has full, and improved, control to best manage the optimum ground speeds for the blade loads.
“The larger D6T also has an Enhanced Auto Shift transmission feature linked to the ever reliable, and unique, torque divider,” Mr Witte said.
With Caterpillar an industry leader in emissions technology, Mr Witte explained how the transition through various emissions regulations had not affected machine performance or economy.
“On all three of the D6 machines (D6K2, D6N and D6T) typically seen in the construction industry, we have now seen the introduction of US EPA Tier 4 Final (EU Stage IV) diesel exhaust emission technology,” he said.
“The move from earlier equivalent US EPA Tier 3 (EU Stage IIIA) exhaust emissions saw introduction of the Cat clean emissions module that targets the reduction of particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).
“This has seen the emissions control addressed by a separate, dedicated module where exhaust particular matter and NOx emissions were each significantly reduced to the US EPA Tier 4 Final (EU Stage IV) level.
“Engines run more efficiently, and ultimately, the whole powertrain specification has played a part in lowering fuel consumption together with other powertrain enhancements such as Enhanced Auto-Shifting.”
Mr Witte said recent VisionLink® data from the global population of D6Ts fitted with EPA Tier 3 (EU Stage IIA) emission control, compared with the current US EPA Tier 4 Final (EU Stage IV) machines, illustrated a reduction in working fuel consumption per hour.
The added fluid such as Diesel Exhaust Fluid still resulted in an overall total fluid reduction in the comparison, he said.
“The data is important because it reflects actual machine operating conditions, is data collated worldwide and reflects total fluid reduction costs as well,” Mr Witte explained.
“It is a great example of efficiencies and advancements in total engine and drivetrain technology contributing to lower operating costs.”
From an operator’s perspective, ongoing improvement of in-cabin features and technology can also contribute to lowering operating costs.
“Standard equipment on the Cat D6K2, D6N and D6T medium track type tractors will certainly assist operators to achieve tasks easier, more comfortably and with less fatigue,” Mr Witte said.
“Features such as Stable Blade means the machine hydraulics react quicker than an operator when any extreme fore or aft pitch is encountered in tough conditions.
“That is also the case in fine grading when hard to recognise pitch changes can happen,” Mr Witte added.
“This not only reduces the operator’s required input, but produces much improved graded floor conditions.”
Cat Grade with Slope Assist is another new feature fitted as standard to assist operators on the D6K2 and D6N Medium sized Track-type Tractors.
“Slope Assist helps the operator reach the target slope faster as it maintains the dozer’s established blade angle in both mainfall and cross-slope,” he said.
“This technology is built-in to the dozer and requires no 3D infrastructure, base stations, design files or data ratios, making it ideal to develop building pads, form embankments, levelling work and when constructing flat planes.
“In manual control mode it provides the operator with a slope guidance reference; in auto control mode it will maintain the slope value required as entered by the operator.
“Importantly, these technologies lessen operator fatigue and, as such, ought contribute to better productivity.”
Complex 3D designs can be achieved with optional technology such as Cat Grade with 3D feature on both the D6N and D6T machines.
“The fully integrated system includes dual GNSS antennas located out of harm’s way on the cabin roof to eliminate traditional blade mounted masts and cabling that can be easily damaged in normal operations or require daily removal,” Mr Witte said.
An in-cab display illustrates the 3D design and removes the need for continual survey checking.
“That certainly ought contribute to faster project completion times,” he said.
“We conducted a test earlier this year on a D6N with integrated Cat Grade with 3D on a super elevated road design and achieved a 95 per cent accuracy performance target of tolerance of +/- 2cm.
“The D6N with Grade Protection function and dual antenna GNSS system demonstrated high quality, accuracy and control of machine direction over a complex 3D design.
“There are also various operational modes that automate the blade lift and tilt functions to prevent grade overcutting during manual blade operation,” he said.
The AccuGrade™ Ready Option (ARO) is included as part of the Cat Grade with 3D package for greater versatility for 2D laser or UTS control as needed, if satellite reception is limited, Mr Witte explained.
While technology has eased the fatigue burden on operators, great features are also accounted for with insightful small design touches, Mr Witte told us.
“We have even mounted a bracket to store a shovel for easy access to reduce any track material build up on the roller frames,” he said.
“It may sound trivial, but it is important to be able to access a service tool at the end of the day to maintain a clean undercarriage.
“That simple tool ensures the undercarriage performs at its best, is available to remove any obstructions at a walk-around inspection and reduces weight, which can affect fuel consumption.”
Mr Witte said the Cat medium Track Type Tractor line-up offered a leading edge for contractors to reduce operating and project costs and equip them for success.
“Caterpillar is an industry leader in developing new technology and delivering machines that perform beyond expectations, since first introducing AccuGrade Laser and GNSS Blade mounted systems over decade ago,” he said.
“Our current technology and advanced powertrain systems deliver improved fuel efficiency, and a total fluid efficient operation than earlier models, while the integration of standard and optional features such as grade technology ought help boost productivity and reduce operational costs.”