Quickly achieving tight tolerances is the objective of any earthmoving contractor. To accomplish this goal, you need equipment that gives you a competitive edge, and many manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with their current finish dozer designs.
"A machine design that allows for good visibility and control will make it easier to manage applications such as spreading expensive topsoil - saving owner and operator time and money," says Paul Wade, brand marketing manager, New Holland. "A sound combination of length of track on the ground, track gauge, track shoe width and operator comfort are key features of all small dozers, but are particularly significant when it comes to selecting finish dozers. A good balance between ease to maintain the grade and maneuverability is crucial."
Mike Murphy, New Holland's global product marketing manager - dozers, adds, "The relationship between tracks and blade base will determine visibility and controllability. The blade needs to be far enough out from the machine so the operator can see behind it. At the same time, the distance to the blade can't be too long, since it will have a negative impact on the machine's controllability."
Often, the application is what constitutes a finish dozer. "The size of a finish dozer can vary greatly across different applications, ranging from backfilling along a finished curb line to spreading stone to grade on a large commercial development," says Scott Bayless, product consultant - High Speed Dozer, John Deere Construction & Forestry. "Generally speaking, across all sizes of a finish dozer, you want a relatively long track frame to provide a stable platform from which the operator can work. Typically, this longer undercarriage is found on a Long Track (LT), Extra Long Track (XLT) or Low Ground Pressure (LGP) machine."
Yet, it's really a combination of balance and blade control that defines a finish machine. "Machine balance and blade response are what really allow an operator to perform fine grading," says Joel Fritts, building construction products - market professional, Caterpillar. "The customer/operator wants 'motor grader on track' performance."
Primary factors to ensure a smooth finish while working on grade are a dozer's responsiveness to the operator when steering, and the ease with which the operator is able to control the blade, says Murphy. "The ability to control all functions of the blade with one hand comfortably is crucial to ensure the highest level of accuracy," he adds.
"You need responsive, intuitive and predictable controls," Fritts agrees. "The operator has to feel comfortable that, when he moves the control handle, the blade movement is predictable and consistent."
Caterpillar D3K through D6K dozers provide a thumb wheel mounted on the control handle, so the operator's thumbs can actuate the blade angle with low effort. "Other machines require twisting the control with wrist action, resulting in operator fatigue at the end of the day," says Fritts. In addition, a blade shake button allows the operator to remove material from the blade at the end of the doze cycle.
The controls are mounted to the seat above the seat suspension, Fritts continues. "This allows the operator to be isolated from ground-induced vibration, reducing operator fatigue," he points out.
Six-way blades are popular on finish dozers. "Generally speaking, all six-way blades perform the same function, with specs varying slightly by the amount of angle, tilt and pitch," says Bayless. However, a design difference that is often overlooked is blade pitch. "Most makers of dozers with six-way blades have some way to adjust blade pitch, but some manufacturers make it much easier to adjust."