GRADE with 3D

3D Technology Helps Move 5 Million Cubic Yards of Earth

On an 861-acre site near Butler, Georgia, crews are constructing a large-scale solar field for Georgia Power Co. that will produce 311 MW of electric power for area homes and businesses.

To prepare the massive site for installation of solar panels, crews from Brad Cole Construction Co. in Carrollton, Georgia are moving more than five million cubic yards of earth at the Taylor 3 Solar Site. (To grasp the scope of the project, think of 826 football fields laid out side-by-side and end-to-end.)

A fleet of 20 scrapers, dozers and other equipment work non-stop to prepare the site. Cat® GRADE with 3D technology built in to a Cat D6T Dozer is helping the earth moving contractor stay ahead of project deadlines.

“We have some tough deadlines to meet, and 3D grade control equipment definitely speeds up production,” says Jeff Weaver, project superintendent for Brad Cole Construction. “It gives our operators the advantage of making one pass versus three or four passes.”

The installation of solar panels requires a level surface, and the Cat GRADE with 3D system helps grading crews achieve the necessary level of precision, Weaver says.

Cat GRADE with 3D is a factory-integrated Cat Connect GRADE technology designed to help operators improve grading accuracy and efficiency—from production dozing all the way to precision finish grade work. Cat GRADE with 3D is engineered specifically for Cat dozers. 

 

To prepare a massive site for installation of solar panels, crews from Brad Cole Construction Co. in Carrollton, Georgia are moving more than five million cubic yards of earth at the Taylor 3 Solar Site.

 

Cat GRADE with 3D works seamlessly with other technology features on Cat dozers to match blade load with ground conditions, helping the operator achieve full blade loads and produce smooth, quality grades with less effort.

“Taylor 3 is a large grading site, but it’s also a fine grading site with many acres of minimal cut depths,” says foreman Blake Lewis. “Cutting and filling with the 3D grade control technology helps to ensure that you don’t undercut or leave the grade high.

“When the machines complete the mass grade area and it’s down to a fine grade operation, we’re much more efficient in our finishing because of the Cat GRADE with 3D technology,” Lewis adds. “We’re working smarter and not harder—this system is just a lot faster and more efficient.”

First introduced on D8T and D9T tractors in 2011, Cat GRADE with 3D was expanded to the D6T in mid-2015. Deep integration allows the system to work seamlessly with other machine features to optimize overall performance and achieve greater efficiency. The integrated system includes multiple grade control modes and features, including:

Modes

  • Grade Control Mode - automates blade lift and tilt to produce consistent grades from first to last pass.
  • Rough Grade Mode - automates blade lift and tilt to produce consistent grades from first to last pass. Also prevents the blade center from going below grade during rough grade operations.
  • Grade Protection - prevents entire blade from cutting below desired grade during manual blade operation to reduce overcutting.

Features

  • AutoCarry™ - automates blade lift to maintain desired blade load, improve load consistency and reduce track slip.
  • Auto Blade Assist - automates blade pitch and lift during Load/Carry/Spread cycle based on operator preferences.
  • Automatic Ripper Control - automates ripper height, limits track slip, and reduces wear during heavy ripping applications.

“By being able to adjust to the simple grade or the cut and carry, you can easily adjust operation to be more efficient with the material you’re working in, whether you have big cuts, little cuts, or you’re cutting and carrying, or filling or grading,” Lewis says.

Simplified Controls

Integrated joystick buttons enable operators to make quick grade adjustments while keeping hands on the controls, simplifying operation. With automated blade controls, operators can work more efficiently over long shifts with less fatigue by reducing manual inputs by as much as 80 percent.

James Hall, an operator for Brad Cole Construction, likes the joystick controls on the D6T.

“Everything is right here at your fingertips,” he says. “It’s easy to control, and you can get to everything without having to look for it.”

The in-cab display provides an easy to follow 3D grade plan with cut/fill data to guide the operator to grade, while automated blade movements help operators of varied experience levels achieve consistent, quality grades faster, and in fewer passes. The system eliminates the need for grade staking, which reduces or eliminates ground crews, resulting in enhanced safety and reduced costs.

 

“The operators like the new touch screen,” Weaver says. “You can do a lot more with this screen as far as adjusting your grades and knowing where you’re at in the job.  You don’t have to sit there and go through the buttons, you can do it right on the screen. It’s just a lot faster for the operator.”

The touch screen is ergonomically positioned so that operators are focused on what is going on in front of them.

“You’re not looking to the side, you’re always facing forward, so it’s a lot safer,” Lewis says. “You’re able to see both sides of your blade and pay attention to what’s around you.”

No Setup or Removal

Dual GNSS antennas are mounted on the cab to eliminate masts and cables traditionally located on the blade. This keeps antennas out of harm’s way and saves time by eliminating the need for component installation and removal.

“The integrated system works great—you don’t have to worry about damaging the head, dropping it, or taking it off the dozer,” Weaver says. “If you have to mobilize it on another job, you just load it up on a lowboy and off you go. You don’t have any vandalism because there’s nothing outside the tractor to vandalize.”

David Walker, equipment manager for Brad Cole Construction, says the integrated 3D grade control system is safer, and reduces the time previously required for dismantling and setup.

 

“WE HAVE SOME TOUGH DEADLINES TO MEET, AND 3D GRADE CONTROL EQUIPMENT DEFINITELY SPEEDS UP PRODUCTION. IT GIVES OUR OPERATORS THE ADVANTAGE OF MAKING ONE PASS VERSUS THREE OR FOUR.”

 

“When you’re climbing up and down and taking these poles and rails and antennas off, that is a huge safety concern,” Walker says. “A man could slip and fall or drop the things and then they’re broken and then you’re spending thousands of dollars again. So as far as safety, it’s an excellent innovation. 

“And with this integrated system the operator just gets off and goes right home,” Walker says. “He gets there the next morning and it’s ready to go. Nothing has to be changed. When you add up all of the time that it takes to handle and put the stuff on and take the stuff off, not to mention trying to keep it from getting broken, it amounts to a lot of money for us. So the integrated Cat GRADE with 3D system effectively saves us time and money.”

Walker and his team at Brad Cole Construction have followed grade control technology since its inception.

“We love the new 3D technology, it helps us,” he says. “It’s so easy to set up—it’s not time consuming at all. Our guys can walk up, plug in and have it ready to go when it pulls up on the job in just a matter of seconds.”

Cost Saving Technology

Brad Cole Construction closely monitors its owning and operating costs, and the D6T has proven to be a leader.

“We keep up on every penny on every piece of equipment the Brad Cole company owns—we know exactly what we have spent,” Walker says. “We look at it monthly, and the D6Ts have proven to be by far been more efficient for us to run than any of our other competitive models.” 

Compared to previous versions, increased fuel efficiency is another benefit of the D6T, Walker says.

“With the Tier 4 Final system we are getting maximum fuel savings with this machine over previous models,” Walker says. “We were the first in Georgia to utilize the D6T with 3D grade control, and it has proven to be a wise investment.”

 

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The Cat equipment along with Cat GRADE with 3D has enabled Brad Cole Construction to move material in a more efficient manner, potentially shaving 45 days off of the 10-month project, says project manager Jason Hoffman.

“We have to produce a good product at a very high tolerance, and on a very tight schedule,” Hoffman says. “And we have to keep our client informed at all times.  We’re able to utilize the durability of these Cat machines and feel comfortable knowing that we’re going to meet or beat that deadline. 

“The client specifically has come to us and told us that we are not the typical grading company, that the tolerances when they come in and check behind us are on grade closer than they’ve ever dealt with before—they can take us at our word,” Hoffman adds.

“They have commended our ability, and a lot of that is due to the Cat machinery and the 3D grade control that we utilize.”

The Cat equipment along with Cat GRADE with 3D has enabled Brad Cole Construction to move material in a more efficient manner, potentially shaving 45 days off of the 10-month project, says project manager Jason Hoffman.

“We have to produce a good product at a very high tolerance, and on a very tight schedule,” Hoffman says. “And we have to keep our client informed at all times.  We’re able to utilize the durability of these Cat machines and feel comfortable knowing that we’re going to meet or beat that deadline. 

“The client specifically has come to us and told us that we are not the typical grading company, that the tolerances when they come in and check behind us are on grade closer than they’ve ever dealt with before—they can take us at our word,” Hoffman adds.

“They have commended our ability, and a lot of that is due to the Cat machinery and the 3D grade control that we utilize.”

 


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