Meet the expert

Next Gen Cat® Machines – Delivering Results & Grading Efficiency

Cat® GRADE technology delivers exceptional results and ease of use on the Next Gen machine range. Offering productivity advantages, improved efficiency and greater levels of on-site safety, Caterpillar Technology Application Specialist, Chris Barrett explains the latest developments.

As the new decade unfolds, Caterpillar has accelerated the pace of innovation, adding new and improved technology – all designed to improve job site safety and machine productivity.

“Programmable electronic hydraulic valves, smart sensors, electronics, and GNSS (GlobalSatellite Navigation Systems) systems are at the heart of the Next Gen Machines DNA,” Mr Barrett said.

“This enables an infinite number of solutionsto meet modern job-site requirements.” In Australia, one of the Cat technologies most widely adopted is 3D machine control.

CAT Grade With 3D

Mr Barrett said not many civil projects are completed these days without the use of 3D machine control and a digital job site plan. “3D designs in-cab, automatic grade control and elimination of the need for continual grade staking and checking are well proven with productivity gains making well over 50 per cent compared with traditional methods,” he said.

“Caterpillar is bringing further productivity gains to customers with 3D machine control available as a factory fit option on a range of the most commonly used earthmoving machines including excavators, track-type tractors, motor graders, scrapers and soil compactors.”

The state-of-the-art Cat GRADE with 3D features a high-resolution colour 10-inch (25cm) touchscreen monitor with excellent daylight readability and ‘Gorilla’ glass for added durability. The Android based software also allows for installation of a range of apps, which can be handy for tasks like converting and exporting design files via USB.

“A combination of powerful graphics and customisable 3D views brings the job-site design to life giving operators the ability to hone in on the right perspective, and there is a range of intuitive embedded features to help them be more productive,” Mr Barrett said.

The new Cat GRADE with 3D system has the ability for operators to quickly create in-field 2D and 3D designs if a job-site design is not available.

“This enables customers to utilise Cat GRADE with 3D on smaller projects to build designs such as swale drains, trenches, pads, basement cuts and finishing,” Mr Barrett said.

“The in-field design can use the cutting edge as a survey tool, or operators can input the exact plan, elevation and profile of the design, which improves work quality and prevents rework.

“The factory 3D option also means operators can start work quickly and safely with no need to install or remove 3D system components and eliminating cable connections adds to the reliability,” he said. Cat GRADE with 3D systems feature securely mounted dual GNSS receivers to provide real-time position and heading of the machine.

“This enables faster reaction times and enhanced performance, particularly on slopes,” Mr Barrett said.

“The IMU-based system offers even better GNSS performance, for more accuracy and stability, and it also provides simple servicing when compared to position-sensing cylinder systems.”


The on-board mobile technology (Product Link™) can provide RTK GNSS corrections from Virtual Reference Stations (VRS), Internet Base Stations Solutions (IBSS) and receive design files over the air from the office as well as enable remote software updates or dealer troubleshooting, Mr Barrett explained.

“As a result of direct customer feedback, new features and enhancements are released every quarter for the Cat GRADE while Next Gen machines have Annual Product Updates.

“The Annual Product Update enables new customer-driven features and software enhancements to be uploaded without adding new hardware to the machines,” he said.

With the successful launch of the 320, 323, 330, 336, 349 and 352 machines, the 325 and the 326 are the newest in the Next Gen Excavator line-up and both are available with Cat GRADE with 3D and the 325 with an optional blade.

“A recent example that stemmed from customer feedback in the 2019 Annual Product Update was Lift Assist for the Next Gen excavators,” Mr Barrett said. “Using existing sensors on the machine, a feature to help operators lifting objects such as boxing and pipes was developed.

“Lift Assist indicates the rated and actual load taking into account if the machine is loaded over the side or front of the tracks and also takes into consideration the extension of the boom and stick,” Mr Barrett said.

“This feature will be ideal for the 325, which is commonly used for lifting.” On some new machines, Annual Product Updates can be sent to the machine through the mobile-networked Product Link modem for a customer to install at a convenient time.

Caterpillar has designed its Next Gen Machines with automation and machine control at the forefront, Mr Barrett explained.

“A great example is the Next Gen D6 and D6 XE track type tractors.

“The iron and technology are designed together right from the start, rather than grafting an off-the-shelf grade control package on a machine at the end. “This enables engineers to optimise every aspect of the design such as the balance, hydraulic systems, structures and cab ergonomics to deliver maximum comfort and productivity.”

The fully automatic 4-speed transmission, or the ultra-efficient electric drive option on the D6 and D6 XE machines provides smooth speed changes adding to overall machine stability, which in turn improves the grading performance.

The powertrain performance works in symmetry with the blade load with AutoCarry™ technology.

“AutoCarry™ automates blade lift and lower movements to maintain the desired blade load, which helps improve load consistency and reduces track slip,” Mr Barrett said.

“It also works seamlessly with the GRADE 3D system enabling productivity from the first pass to finish grade.”

The D6 and D6 XE also feature an all-new C Frame for the VPAT, which is a strongerand lighter structure than previously providing better balance for grading and added strength for larger blades.

A dedicated fine grading undercarriage option features 10 rollers. “This delivers superior stability for high-speed grading even on difficult surfaces like sand and gravel,” Mr Barrett said.

“Universal Total Station is also supported for when even tighter tolerances are required.”

Mastless Graders

A new mastless GRADE with 3D system on Cat motor graders has integrated GNSS receivers and IMU grade sensors that work to compensate for the machine’s acceleration and position changes to deliver a superior finish.

“This solution delivers greater performance because the operator can position the grader and blade in the most productive position with no compromise to grade quality,” Mr Barrett said.

“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 where guidance was not possible previously due to mast positions such as side slopes and drains,” Mr Barrett said.

“It also eliminates the potential for damage to the receiver or machine as can happen when using dual mast or single mast 3D GNSS systems.”

Cat GRADE with 3D mastless will initially be available on the 150 Tier 4 final motor grader.

“Coupled with other Cat exclusive features such as Advanced Control Joysticks, Auto  Articulation, and Stable Grade this will take grading productivity to the next level,” Mr Barrett said.

When 3D is not available, or for use on simpler jobs, Cat GRADE with 3D includes 2D Grade Control in the package. This allows operators to work with automatic machine control when no design plan or infrastructure is available on site. Cat Track Type Tractors are fitted with GRADE with Slope Assist, Mr Barrett said.

“Slope Assist helps operators reach the target slope by automatically maintaining the blade slope and main fall angles.

“This is perfect for transitions, site clean-ups, spreading as well as simple design plans or areas where a GNSS signal may be lost or not available,” he said. The Cat Motor Grader range is fitted with GRADE with Cross Slope to maintain the desired cross slope and also compensates during circle rotation.

“The operator only controls one side of the blade, which is perfect for maintaining roads and spreading material,” according to Mr Barrett.

“Excavators are fitted with Depth and Slope mode allowing you to input and edit grade designs such as target depth and target slope and create profiles.

“The system will give you real-time guidance, or when used with Grade Assist, add semi-autonomous digging capability making it ideal for trenching,” Mr Barrett said.

“These factory integrated packages will give customers the latest technology, best value and are all backed by a factory Caterpillar warranty.

“Our Dealer technology specialists also receive in-field training meaning customers will stay abreast of the latest product developments.”

Learn about productivity technology on Cat® Next Generation machines at Conexpo 2020 and from your local Cat dealer.

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