Upgrading Motor Grader Integrating Machine Control Technology

Motor graders have traditionally been one of the most difficult pieces of equipment to master, but incorporating advanced technology like machine control makes it operation easier and increase its productivity and efficiency.

Used by the construction industry on earthworks equipment since the late 1990s, the machine control technology allows decisions to be made based on data, rather than relying on fallible traditional methods or the skill and experience of the operator. As a result, machine control effectively increases operators’ productivity and accuracy. Prior to its adoption, however, operators had to manually check grade and position machinery themselves – a process that was less accurate, time-consuming and held higher safety risks due to the grade checkers’ or banksman’s proximity to the machines.

What is Machine Control?

Machine control is an intelligent technology that is integrated into construction and earthmoving equipment to optimise job efficiency. In the most absolute layman’s way of putting it, machine control is the use of positioning tools and a display to provide an equipment operator with a reference between the position of the bucket or blade and the target cut/fill and grade.

A myriad of hardware and software solutions exist with the sole purpose of determining an equipment's current position on the earth and then comparing that position with a desired design surface. The difference is then displayed inside the operator cabin allowing the operator to easily and efficiently determine what is required to create the intended design on the ground.

Machine control system uses various components, such as onboard sensors, geospatial beacons, lasers and digital data, to control the functions of the equipment. There are two ways that machine control can get onto an equipment: it can either be installed onto the equipment as it is being assembled or retrofitted afterwards.

How Machine Control Works on Motor Grader Machine

Advanced machine control systems use GPS satellite signals to provide accurate, real-time information about a job site. This data is then used to create a digital topo, or survey, that records the measurements of the location and maps out changes to elevation or gradient across the site, quickly and efficiently.

Once the job site has been surveyed, a 2-D or 3-D design blueprint is created to establish the overall layout of the project, and the materials and work required. This digitally “stakes out” the different elements.

The site plan is then uploaded onto the machine’s computer, which uses the information to direct sensors fitted on the blade to cut or fill a profile that corresponds with the exact co-ordinates on the plan.

Depending on the type of mode in use, the operator can manually adjust the elevation or slope of the blade to match the contours in the plan or – in the case of automatic mode – the blade is directed by the grader’s hydraulics to make these adjustments.

Machine Control Options for Motor Graders

Motor graders rely on sophisticated grade control systems to deliver fine grading work. These systems are either built-in at the factory or available as aftermarket kits. As this type of technology is highly scalable, contractors can easily upgrade from entry-level options to more advanced systems if and when the need arises.

The condition of the jobsite and the required accuracy and complexity of the work largely determine what type of grade control system is the best fit. There are currently three available options; 1D, 2D and 3D systems.