As emissions regulations become more stringent, equipment manufacturers continue to incorporate sophisticated electronics into engine and machine control systems to improve both equipment and operator performance. Dozers are just one vital piece of equipment to reap the benefits.
“Dozers can be one of the more challenging earthmoving machines to master, especially when it comes to fine grading,” says Dean Peterson, new product introduction manager for Caterpillar dozers. “Advances in electronic technology, both on the engine and on the machine, are helping operators of various skill levels respond quicker and more accurately to deliver a smoother grade and increase overall performance and productivity.”
The Power of Electronic Integration
Advances in engine electronics help manufacturers deliver more value though a higher degree of powertrain integration. This means the engine and powertrain are able to communicate more effectively to control other machine functions.
“Electronic technology not only affects the engine, but the whole drivetrain and its components,” says Robert Klima, product manager - crawler tractors, Liebherr Construction Equipment Co. “When the engine controller communicates with the transmission controls, the machine can adjust to individual applications, making the required power and torque available only when it’s needed. This results in higher efficiency for the overall machine.
“For example, pushing through a turn requires more power than straight pushing of dirt,” he explains. “If this power was available all of the time, it would increase fuel consumption.”
Electronics enable power to be customized to specific applications — often at the push of a button. Komatsu, for example, utilizes a hydrostatic transmission and engine control technology with two selectable working modes. E Mode is intended for all general dozing, leveling and spreading applications, providing adequate speed and power while saving fuel. P Mode is intended for slot dozing, ripping, uphill dozing and other applications where engine power has priority over fuel consumption.
“With fuel prices increasing constantly, more owners are paying closer attention to fuel costs and efficiency,” says Bruce Boebel, dozer product manager, Komatsu America. “When given the opportunity to reduce fuel consumption by choosing preselected modes, operators have simpler choices to be more efficient.”
“Hydrostatic drive allows the operator ultimate control of the dozer, from steering to maintaining constant ground speed,” says Jon Gilbeck, dozer product marketing manager, John Deere. The company has been using hydrostatic powertrains on its machines since 1976.
The benefits of hydrostatic transmissions include infinite speed control, power management, live power turns, counter rotation while staying in gear and dynamic braking. In addition, compared to conventional machines with powershift transmissions, fuel savings can be as high as 20%, depending on the manufacturer and application.
“Advanced controls have definitely influenced fuel consumption. This is especially true for hydrostatic-driven machines,” says Klima. “Modern controls make power available only when it’s needed and no longer require gear shifting. This results in lower fuel consumption at a better performance compared to conventional-driven machines.”
Electronic integration is also revolutionizing powershift transmission controls, resulting in greater versatility and efficiency. According to Peterson, this includes the ability to:
•shape engine lug curves to optimize performance and fuel economy and reduce emissions;
•vary machine power to improve productivity in the upper gears and control track slip, and protect the powertrain components in first gear to significantly reduce operating costs;