Cutting edge control: machine control for road building equipment

By Becca Wilkins11 June 2008

Topcon Positioning systems’ millimetre GPS precise positioning technology has been expanded to inclu

Topcon Positioning systems’ millimetre GPS precise positioning technology has been expanded to include asphalt pavers.

The use of machine control and guidance systems in the road building sector is escalating. As well as improving productivity and efficiency, these systems ease labour for the operator. Becca Wilkins reports.

Machine control and automation is becoming increasingly sophisticated and road building equipment manufacturers are keen to invest in these systems in order to keep pace with changing industry needs.

According to Pierre-Nicolas Selenne, from Caterpillar's Europe, Africa and Middle East (EAME) region, current industry drivers include, a lack of skilled labour and a trend for contractors to become ‘solution providers' on large-scale projects - where one company is responsible for an entire project. He added there is also an increasing emphasis on jobsite efficiency and more focus on health, safety and the environment. Caterpillar's ‘connected worksite', which comprises machine control and guidance systems, helps to address these trends.

Speaking to iC, Rogier Tonies, also from Caterpillar (EAME) said, "The connected worksite is a concept that brings all telemetric solutions together; thus combining Cat Product Link and Cat AccuGrade (machine control and guidance products) with additional functionality to send project design files from the office to machine and back. This allows a lot of new possibilities, for example, remotely and real-time monitoring of machine health or measuring the progress of a project."

Acceptance and demand for telematic systems such as Cat's Product Link is rising and the number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) featuring these solutions is increasing, according to Caterpillar's Andreas Clauss.

Chief operating officer for JCB, Matthew Taylor, said the company's LiveLink telematics system provides customers with a high-tech system, which helps them run their businesses more efficiently, and profitably by improving productivity.


Technologies for the road compaction sector leading to easier to operate, more efficient and productive machines are rapidly being developed.

At ConExpo this year in Las Vegas, US, Trimble introduced the new CM310 Compaction Sensor, which enables the display of real-time material density to the compactor operator. This can increase machine productivity while providing complete, consistent material compaction over the entire construction project, the company stated.

A spokesman for Trimble said, "Using the Trimble CCS900 Compaction Control System with the new sensor, the contractor can better control the compaction process, making operations more efficient and productive."

Meanwhile, Mr Tonies said Cat's AccuGrade Compaction system displays compaction values of the soil that relate to the load bearing strength of the base via a colour coding system.

"This system assures proper compaction and avoids ‘over-compacting'," he added. AccuGrade GPS machine control and AccuGrade Compaction also have the capability to record the ‘as-built' design and the measured compaction values, which serve as important data for quality assurance and documentation.

Elsewhere, Hamm is refining and rolling out its Hamm Compaction Quality (HCQ) technology. A spokesman for the company said, "Hamm has always been extremely innovative in equipment controls and measuring technology, and now is developing new modules that will provide users with different levels of intelligent compaction. The goal is to provide an integrated, intelligent, modular HCQ system that will help customers produce high quality, highly durable asphalt layers and soil surfaces."

Dynapac's Compaction Analyzer for asphalt (DCA-A) helps operators achieve the ideal rolling pattern by keeping track of the number of passes and showing temperatures in the asphalt. The measuring and documentation system from Bomag, meanwhile, detects and logs not only the stiffness but also controls and documents the compaction process, the number passes, the amplitude, the frequency and the working speed, as well as asphalt compaction and asphalt temperature.

Speaking to iC, Richard Owen, vice president for Volvo CE's road machinery division in Europe, said the company currently prefers the operator to be in full control of the compaction process but does provide systems to measure and record the level of compaction achieved.


Control systems used in paving are also advancing both in technological terms and in popularity. Mr Owen said CAN-Bus digital control and Volvo's Electronic Paver Management system (EPM) have been on-going developments for the company. He added the paver controls are intuitive and instinctive for experienced and unskilled operators. "Electronic operator controls are certainly a focus for the future development of products," Mr Owen added.

Vögele's 3D machine control device, Navitronic Plus, is unique according to the company because it controls both the screed's position and the paver's direction of motion. It includes an open interface with which common 3D positioning systems, such as laser-based total stations or GPS can be connected.

Topcon's millimetre GPS precise positioning technology has now been expanded to include asphalt pavers. The world's first 3D-GPS+ control system for pavers, profilers and trimmers was introduced last year.

A spokesman for Topcon said, "The technology, known as Lazer Zone, is used to generate a vertical accuracy to within a few millimetres as compared to the centimetre vertical accuracy of conventional Real Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS."

Meanwhile, a plethora of new pavers were introduced at ConExpo held in Las Vegas this year. Power Pavers introduced its new SF 2700 slipform paver, which has a maximum pave depth of 406 mm and sister company, Power Curbers, exhibited its 5700-C slipform curb and gutter machine which was launched last year.

In the asphalt sector, LeeBoy's 8515 paver features the new ‘Legend' electric screed heating system as an option, which increases productivity for contractors, according to the company. It is capable of paving widths from 2.4 to 4.6 m and the hopper capacity is 6.8 tonnes. Also new from LeeBoy is the 15 tonne rubber -tyred VT 9000 asphalt paver, featuring a 2.43m electrically heated screed.

Another model which made its world premiere at ConExpo was the Bomag BF 6615 asphalt paver which features a maximum 4.7 m paving width and a 8.18 tonne hopper capacity. Vögele's Ergo-Plus operating system and self-diagnostic systems are standard on the new Vision Series range of pavers including the 3 m class Vision 5200-2, a tracked machine, and the Vision 5203-2 wheeled variant. Roadtec showcased two new pavers including the 2.44 m RP-170 on tyres and the rubber-tracked RP-175, which replace the RP-150 and RP-155.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar has launched the AP600D wheel-type asphalt paver replacing the AP600 and Gomaco introduced its new roller-compacted concrete (RCC) paver.

New rollers

Bomag's 1.7 m drum width BW 266 AD-4 and 2 m BW 278 AD-4, heavy tandem drum rollers made their world premiere at ConExpo. They feature redesigned operator's stations with a sliding/swivel seat for improved operator comfort and visibility and increased efficiency. Also new from Bomag is the redesigned BW177-40 Series single-drum vibratory rollers. The BW177D-40, BW177DH-40 and BW177PDH-40 models feature vibration-isolated operator's stations with ergonomically repositioned steering wheel and new integrated instrument cluster.

Several models in Hamm's new compact roller line-up in the 0.75 m to 1.40 m drum width classes are designated ‘VV', which stands for "Vibration Front, Vibration Rear". This gives the operator the choice of one (either), both or no drums vibrating. Also at ConExpo Hamm exhibited the 3412 VIO, a single-drum soil compactor that features exclusive oscillation compaction - as well as conventional vibratory compaction - in a single 2.1 m wide drum.

JCB Vibromax's latest models feature fuel tanks almost twice the size of competitive machines, according to the company.

"The VMT160 Series of tandem vibratory rollers feature a 45 litre diesel tank, enabling the machines to work continuously for longer than any comparable model," a spokesman for JCB said. The larger VMT260 features a 95 litre fuel tank.

New to Ammann's single drum compactor range is the Rammax RW 1815-SPT, a 2.4 tonne unit with a 1.2 m working width and in the tandem roller sector, the company launched X4 versions of its AV 70 X and AV 75 X machines, available with segmented drums.

Dynapac has introduced new CC224HF and CC234HF tandem asphalt rollers to extend its range of articulated tandem rollers in the 7 to 13 tonne class. The company has also launched the CC424HF, CC524HF and CC624HF tandem models aimed at the 10 to 13 class. The SW652ND, a 1.4m wide, double drum oscillating roller that doubles as a double-drum vibratory roller, is among new asphalt compactors from Sakai.


Developing automation and machine control systems is now a key focus for OEMs to remain competitive in what is currently, with the exception of the US, a buoyant global market.

Mr Selenne said Caterpillar not only sees a positive outlook for road construction in Europe but also in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Africa and Middle East regions as well.

"We see that customer needs are changing. We are increasingly evolving from a great machine manufacturer and supplier to a full solution provider to our customers because this is what they want - more integration of the machine into the way they manage their business."
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