This spring, Komatsu teamed up with Topcon to announce what appears to be a new level of factory-installed grade control. The new intelligent Machine Control (iMC) builds sensors and other grade control network hardware — which typically get added to a machine — directly into the machine’s essential hydraulic and electronic infrastructure.
The complete iMC system includes an improved GNSS receiver and control box and a GNSS antenna. The antenna that you would normally find on top of a mast attached to the dozer blade is located on top of the cab for improved protection and accurate as-built data collection, regardless of the position of the blade.
Sensors integral to the dozer’s hydraulic cylinders communicate blade position to the controller, and the system changes blade position through the machine’s electronically controlled hydraulic system.
With Sitelink3D, Topcon’s communications management system, dozing progress can be sent to the site manager, and updated design data can be exchanged with the controller on the dozer wirelessly.
While the iMC is brand new — displayed for the first time on a D61EX/PX-23 dozer at bauma 2013 — Komatsu also has conventional grade control-ready packages. The D51-22, D61-23 and D65-17 dozers come with what Komatsu calls an “enhanced provision for Topcon”; only a bolt-on field kit is required to prep the unit to accept a Topcon system. An optional Trimble package also exists for these models. Plus, there are grade control-ready options for the remaining Komatsu dozers up to 354 hp.
“Grade control-ready kits are developed and tested to make grade control system installation simple, quick and durable,” says Schwieters. “These packages significantly decrease hydraulic work, fabrication and disruption of the original condition of the machine compared to dealer installation.”
Advantages of Factory Ready
John Deere offers grade control-ready options from the factory for Topcon, Trimble and Leica on dozers up to 210 hp, as well as the unique 764 High Speed Dozer. The company also formed a strategic alliance with Topcon to sell and support Topcon’s high-speed 3D-MC2 grade control solutions on select Deere models.
“Purchasing a grade control-ready dozer from the factory will allow customers to experience faster delivery, receive a consistently high level of quality and benefit from expanded customer support to maximize productivity and uptime and reduce daily operating costs,” says Jon Gilbeck, crawler dozer global marketing manager at John Deere. “With growing demand for dozers with grade control, resale values of grade control-ready dozers are enhanced.
“Demand for dozers with grade control is growing due to productivity gains and a contractor’s ability to more accurately calculate input costs, which saves money and increases profit margins,” says Gilbeck. “John Deere customers continue to better understand the advantages of dozers with grade control, and we continue to see a higher adoption rate of this technology year-over-year on crawler dozers.”
You can fit grade control systems to dozers in the aftermarket. But there are advantages to using a factory-ready option.
“The factory has included the hard-to-install components and any weldments, so the dealer just has to install the electronic components,” says Schmidtgall. “There’s better accuracy, more consistent installs, the same warranty as the machine and Cat product support. You get components strategically placed in prime locations for maximum performance, cost and reliability.
“Consistent installs save installation and support time. Grade control is integrated into joystick buttons and in-dash displays,” he adds. “Typically, the ARO install saves at least five labor hours.”