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The Next Dimension

May 29, 2017
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Learn how 3-D GPS-technology from Komatsu provides full picture for excavator operators

Aftermarket grade-control systems revolutionized the construction industry by slashing project times, wasted material and labor costs in the late 1990s. When Komatsu’s integrated intelligent Machine Control with semi-automation hit the market in 2013, it took the industry to another dimension, literally.

“Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control technology works in 3-D, so the machine knows where its reference points are in all directions, at all times,” said Komatsu Senior Product Manager Mike Salyers. “With a 2-D only system, the machine simply knows where target grade is relative to a known elevation and only in the posture that the known point was measured.”

When Komatsu introduced intelligent Machine Control on the PC210LCi-10 excavator in 2014, the improvement was dramatic. Grading efficiency increased by as much as 66 percent compared to conventional grading on a sloped surface.

The excavator’s integrated, 3-D GPS technology was a massive upgrade over 2-D aftermarket machine control systems as well. The 3-D system doesn’t require operators to re-establish elevation after moving the machine.

“With 2-D, every time operators move their machines – either to a new spot or to dump a load – they have to re-establish their positions using the bucket to define certain elevations,” explained Salyers. “With the GPS system, the machine’s position is updated in real time providing information so the operator can focus on digging.

"The intelligent Machine Control equipment can have the project plans uploaded to its computer, providing all of the information the operator needs to cut and grade even the most complex designs accurately,” he continued.

For example, many house pads today have unique designs that present challenges to even the most experienced field personnel. Carving detailed bump outs can be easily and accurately performed because the machine’s position is continually updated without the need to re-establish its position.

The intelligent Machine Control excavators are pre-programmed with the bucket’s full dimensions. In combination with the semi-automatic function of the boom, the operator is ensured not to undercut the target surface no matter the position of the bucket, giving full control of cutting and grading applications.

"In conventional 2-D systems, the bucket can only be referenced from a single point – usually the bucket teeth. This can be an issue if the body of the machine is sitting on a slope; one edge of the bucket may be below the target surface and one edge above,” Salyers explained. “A 3-D bucket allows the system to determine the closest point to target surface to prevent any undercut."

Komatsu is the only manufacturer to offer excavators with integrated 3-D intelligent Machine Control with semi-automation – the PC210LCi-10, PC360LCi-11 and PC490LCi-11.

Komatsu’s line of 3-D intelligent Machine Control excavators with semi-automation, including the PC360LCi-11, recognize the full dimensions of the bucket and how it works with the boom and arm to curl when excavating dirt. This ensures that operators maintain grade and limit overexcavating.