Machine control demystified

What is 2D Machine Control?SV: 2D is the entry level machine control mode. The 2D system is programmed with the machine dimensions and angles (boom length, stick, bucket width, etc). The 2D system stores the machine dimensions and can reference off the ground or a peg. Changes to cut, fill and depth can be made. The system understands how to measure a depth from that reference point and gives all this information to the operator via the screen in the cabin.The excavator operator and the Leica PowerDigger 2D system know exactly where the machine bucket is at all times. Three sensors are placed onto different parts of the excavator and an easy-to-read screen is placed in the cabin. The sensors are linked to the screen by cables. Whenever the machine moves, a graphic of the bucket moves with it, in real time, right there on the screen, showing the operator exactly what is happening even in blind cuts or underwater, how far to dig and the grade of the job. There’s no guesswork and the operator stays in the cab – all with up to 10mm accuracy..What is 3D GPS?SV: “GPS” stands for global positioning system. This term describes the (American) satellites that accurately find a machine’s position on the earth. Often Glonass (the Russian satellites) are also used. It is referred to as 3D because the machine control runs in three-dimensional mode – the most accurate and comprehensive form of machine control.Prior to the start of a job, the project manager of the site provides the operator with the site plans and these are easily loaded into the 3D screen (a small computer) via USB. As the machine moves, not only are its physical movements shown (via the sensors – just like in 2D) but also where the machine is according to the site plan via satellite signal.A reference station is erected onsite and communicates via a radio with the machine. Project data is compared to the machine position and the difference – your cut and fill values – are displayed. 3D machine control gives the most accurate position of the machine in the cabin so the operator knows at all times exactly where he is and where he needs to be.Is the operator still in control of the machine?SV: Yes. The machine control system assists the operator to do a more accurate job, saving on passes made, time, and machine wear and tear. The operator still guides the machine and is in full command – the machine control system will not override the operator.Do the savings and benefits of machine control outweigh the initial investment?SV: Absolutely. This is precisely why the civil and mining industries are embracing machine control as the norm. Many contractors will not hire subcontractors unless they have 2D system functionality on their machines as a minimum, and often the requirement is no less than 3D functionality. Why? Because the systems save time due to the high accuracy they produce. Less passes are necessary and this saves on machine wear and tear, and frees the machine up to move onto the next part of the job. Productivity is taken to a maximum, with the initial investment paid off very quickly and replaced by profit.

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