Road building: machine control and guidance systems

13 August 2008

Wirtgen’s new W 150 large milling machine features the company’s new Widrive machine control system

Wirtgen’s new W 150 large milling machine features the company’s new Widrive machine control system that the company says simplifies all control functions.

Machine control and guidance systems have advanced dramatically and now play a crucial part in the rapidly evolving European road building equipment market. Becca Wilkins reports.

The popularity of machine control systems in the road building equipment sector is reflected in the many new devices that are now available for controlling and guiding compaction, paving and milling processes.

Milling management

Wirtgen's new Widrive machine control system, available on the company's new W 150 large milling machine, allows previously independent machine control functions to be "intelligently" linked by the system. According to Wirtgen this significantly simplifies the operation of the machine.

Christian Berning, Wirtgen's applications engineer said, "As part of extensive field trials, numerous requirements and requests from experienced milling machine operators have been incorporated in the development of the system. That was the only way for us to create a control tool that would be in line with practical requirements and a real revolution in terms of user friendliness."

Harald Kröll, Widrive system programmer, said many functions have been automated with the new software so that the driver can now achieve results with considerably less manual intervention.

Widrive links and centrally controls the machine's major functions including the diesel engine, travel drive, milling drum drive, conveyor drive, water system, four-fold full floating height adjustment system, as well as the Level Pro levelling system. Bernd Holl, Wirtgen product manager said, "The Widrive system combined with the four-fold full-floating and height adjustment system is a genuine revolution in the large milling machine class."

Perfecting paving

Machine automation in the paving sector is also evolving to include more technologically sophisticated systems.

Richard Owen, vice president for Volvo CE's road machinery business in Europe, told CE Volvo's CAN-Bus digital control and Electronic Paver Management (EPM) system have been on-going developments for the company.

Mr Owen, who joined Volvo from Ingersoll Rand, when Volvo acquired its road building division, said the paver controls are intuitive and instinctive for experienced and unskilled operators.

Meanwhile, 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.

New pavers introduced to the market include Power Pavers' new SF 2700 slipform paver, which has a maximum pave depth of 406 mm, and in the asphalt sector, Bomag's BF 6615 paver features a maximum 4,7 m paving width and a 8,18 tonne hopper capacity.

At Samoter this year Vögele showcased its new second-generation compact pavers in the shape of four new wheeled and tracked versions of the Super 1100-2 and Super 1300-2. With basic widths of 1,8 m and machine lengths of 4,95 m, these machines are suited for work in urban sites. Roadtec meanwhile, has introduced two new pavers including the 2,44 m RP-170 on tyres and the rubber-tracked RP-175, and Caterpillar has launched the AP600D wheel-type asphalt paver replacing the AP600.

Controlling compaction

Compaction processes can also be simplified and enhanced with the addition of machine control and guidance systems.

Trimble's new CM310 Compaction Sensor increases machine productivity while providing complete, consistent material compaction over an entire construction project. This enables the display of real-time material density to the compactor operator, 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," he added.

Meanwhile, Rogier Tonies from Caterpillar's Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME) office, said the company'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.

Mr Tonies told CE, "One of the trends we definitely see at the moment is the introduction of new technology like GPS positioning, wireless communication and digital information management."

He added Caterpillar's ‘connected worksite' concept comprising machine control and guidance systems brings all the company's telematic solutions together; thus combining Cat Product Link and Cat AccuGrade, to send project design files from the office to the machine and back.

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. Bomag's measuring and documentation system 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.

Mr Owen, said electronic operator controls are a focus for the future development of road building products at Volvo. He added 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.

Machine roll out

A host of new compact rollers have been introduced to the European market this year. New to Ammann's single drum compactor range and showcased at Samoter, is the Rammax RW 1815-SPT, a 2,4 tonne unit with a 1,2 m working width. In the tandem roller sector the company has launched X4 versions of its AV 70 X and AV 75 X machines, available with segmented drums.

Also at Samoter, Hamm introduced new machines in its smaller roller range including the HD 8 and HD 10C tandem rollers, which both compete in the 1,5 tonne class. Key features include excellent all-round visibility, side clearance, manoeuvrability, high operator comfort and ease of use. Hamm has also launched the 3412 VIO this year - a single-drum soil compactor that features oscillation compaction, as well as conventional vibratory compaction, in a single 2,1 m wide drum.

Bomag introduced the new 7 tonne class roller, in the shape of the BW 154 at Samoter this year. Meanwhile, making their world premiere at ConExpo, were Bomag's 1,7 m drum width BW 266 AD-4 and 2 m BW 278 AD-4, heavy tandem drum rollers. 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.

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.

Elsewhere, 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 10 to 13 tonne class CC424HF, CC524HF and CC624HF tandem models.

Market development

Mr Owen said in the past year growth rates in the European road building market have been "pretty staggering." He added the Russian market has also seen "tremendous growth" as well as in Eastern Europe in general, including the EU accession countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

He said since Volvo acquired Ingersoll Rand's road building division last year the main focus has been the integration of the existing product range into the Volvo family and to ensure Volvo quality standards are applied to the range.

"We do have plans to bring more European orientated products to the portfolio. There's a lot more focus on Europe than there ever was in the past," he added.

Meanwhile, president of Volvo CE's road machinery business, Pat Olney said with unprecedented growth in transport demand, increasing traffic congestion and road safety challenges, global infrastructure is set to be central in many nations' economic development plans.

"Construction equipment manufacturers with a road machinery capability have an important role to play in the ambitious infrastructure development programmes of emerging economies," he added.

Mr Olney said emerging nations realise their economies' future growth will be "hobbled" if they don't invest in their transport infrastructure.

Speaking to CE, Pierre-Nicolas Selenne, from Caterpillar's EAME office, said Caterpillar sees a positive outlook for road construction in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) because there is a need for infrastructure development across the region.

He added, "There is definitely some infrastructure need in the former East block countries but also infrastructure and maintenance is needed in Western European countries like the UK and Germany."

More Growth

Road building activity across Europe remains high with new roads continuing to be built in the East and road infrastructure projects taking place in the West.

Initiatives such as the Trans European Transport Network (TEN-T), which in part aims to improve Europe's infrastructure, will help fuel future demand for road construction equipment.

Meanwhile, Eastern Europe is not only an opportunity for future road building projects but also has potential for increasing its sales of road building equipment. The GAZ Group, Russia's largest domestic manufacturer of construction equipment, told CE its sales increased by about +28% in the construction and road equipment sector in 2007 and the growth of consolidated sales earnings was more than +48% compared to 2006. The company added it is developing its dealership and service network, which currently stands at more than 30 partners in Russia, CIS and offshore markets.
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