Excavator simulator

24 April 2008

Many machine owners would recoil at the idea of letting a novice operator loose on an excavator costing hundreds of thousands of Euros. But how are new operators supposed to improve without hands-on experience - especially on machines like excavators that do not have particularly intuitive control systems?

Caterpillar has come up with a way of addressing this problem, in the shape of its new PC-based excavator simulator. The system comprises software that Cat has developed itself, along with two joysticks mounted on supports and a base that allows them to fit around a normal office chair.

The programme itself has the graphical look and feel of a computer game, and contains several dozen tutorials that present the trainee with progressively difficult tasks. These start with exercises to familiarise the operator with excavator controls, before moving on to more complex movements and common excavator tasks like trenching and truck loading.

Each task is timed, and the operator is only allowed to progress when the target time has been achieved. These timings, along with records of how accurately each module is completed, are logged by the software, providing reports and documentation on each operators’ achievements.

A key feature of the system is its portability. The joystick modules and base are easy to dismantle, and these, along with a laptop computer (and projector and screen if desired) can easily fit into one car. This means dealers or fleet managers can use the system as a mobile training facility.

Caterpillar currently prices the system - software, joysticks and chair base - at US$ 7500 (€ 5900). A grader simulator is also available, with hauler, wheeled loader and backhoe loader systems due for release before the end of the year. Next year will see Cat add further to the line-up with telehandler, dozer and skid steer loader simulators.

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