- Japanese construction machinery maker Komatsu will showcase at this year's CONEXPO two bulldozers with autonomous blade control that will enable operators to use machine control from "grass to grade," in what the company says is an industry first.
- The D51i-24 and the D61i-24 dozers use proactive control to record terrain data as they move around a site. Using the data, the system makes calculated decisions about whether it should cut and carry material, whether it should spread or fill that material, or whether it should be finish grading.
- The system measures the surrounding ground and determines what has been done on the area being graded, then stores that data and information, according to the company. When the dozer prepares to go back over that area to cut or work it more, the system understands what it was like from its previous track and therefore, follows the existing terrain that was just created.
Traditionally, GPS machine control of bulldozers has focused on finish grade, which meant operators only used the technology approximately 10% to 20% of the time, said Komatsu Product Marketing Manager Derek Morris in a press statement. Komatsu's integrated system allows operators to use automation any time, from general site clean-up to backfilling trenches.
“A key differentiator is that our system collects data at the tracks, while aftermarket solutions collect data at the blade,” Morris noted. “Because data is collected at the track, the system provides a real-time picture of the ground around the machine, allowing the system to make calculated decisions based on the current terrain.”
In addition, the equipment makes it easier on companies facing the skilled labor shortage, Caley Clinton, senior manager of public relations and content for Komatsu, told Construction Dive. With experienced workers retiring and leaving the workforce, few are stepping in to take their place. Automation for blade control reduces the amount of work new drivers need to do to and lowers the bar for entry, she said. The machines still require an operator.