When working in these areas, you can save $20,000 since you don't need a base station. "Some people just buy a rover to go around jobs within the city," says Kohler. "If they have jobs outside the city, that's when they put up their base stations."
Not all metropolitan areas are on networks yet. "There is not a central base station here yet," says Autry. "We don't have networks. I wish we did. It will come in time."
In the meantime, Autry Grading needs to set up a base station at each of its jobs. "That adds to some of the expense," says Autry. "But we have to work with the systems that are offered to us."
With many systems, it is possible to upgrade your current 2-D system to 3-D. This means you don't have to buy a completely new system when it is time to upgrade.
"Aftermarket installations of automatic 3-D grade control systems can be installed on most machines," notes Taylor. "Limitations depend on the machine type and the hydraulic system on the machine."
There are basically three kinds of activation for hydraulics, and each has an impact on installation. They include mechanical, pilot and electronic. "Machines with mechanical activation require the grade control system to be plumbed into the main hydraulic circuit of the machine," says Mansfield. "The larger the machine, the higher the installation cost."
Many equipment manufacturers have transitioned to pilot controls. "With this technology, the overall cost of the hydraulic installation is reduced, and the size of the machine does not significantly impact the cost for installation of the grade
control system," says Mansfield.
The latest development is electronic activation of hydraulic circuits. "With this technology, the overall cost of installation is further reduced and the size of the machine does not significantly impact the installation cost," says Mansfield. "In effect, these machines are all pre-plumbed."
Both pilot and electronic controls have greatly simplified installation. "With the recent trend toward pilot hydraulics and electronically controlled (E/H) valves, this is becoming easier and easier," says Taylor. "This move has meant the installation time for some models of machines has gone from 1.5 days down to 0.5 days."
"Some machine manufacturers today offer factory installations of grade control systems," says Taylor. "These systems typically cannot be moved from machine to machine as the overall machine design incorporates the grade control system, much like a car includes a stereo."
Autry Grading recently bought four new Volvo graders already set up with the hardware for grade control. This simplified installation of the 3-D systems. "The valves were put on here, but the hardware for bolting of the stuff was there from the factory," says Autry.
As 3-D systems continue to evolve and more contractors discover the benefits, the technology is bound to spread rapidly. "I think we are at about a 10% or 15% saturation point in this market for 3-D," says Kohler. "There is still a lot of growth to occur."
Given the competitive nature of earthmoving, the rising costs of fuel and the tenuous availability of precious commodities such as earthmoving tires, this might by the right time to take the first steps toward 3-D grade control systems.