Trimble's new Earthworks technology
Trimble is introducing its new Earthworks package at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017. This is a major development for the firm, as Jeff Drake, business area manager for machine control systems explained: “We’re bringing out our new machine control platform.”
This is bringing a significant innovation for the earthmoving market, he added. “We’re delivering excavator automation. For example, our system will control the bucket and the boom will go up or down to stay in profile.”
Although the system is limited to controlling the bucket, boom and dipper functions, this ensures that digging can be made precisely to grade. And he explained that the system is well suited to excavating slopes or cleaning up trench bottoms, for example. Trimble believes that the system will deliver a substantial gain in output and Drake said, “What we’re seeing is a 30° increase in production. It’s a lot more ergonomic and we find operators can take their hands off the controls on this new architecture.”
The system is based on commonly-available technology, which benefits the user. Drake said, “It’s an Android-based platform. We leverage the usability of the Android functionality.” He said that the operator is likely to be familiar with the Android format and can use the tablet to swipe, pick and zoom.
Drake also said that using this format offers the option of adding further capabilities: “Because we’re on Android we can offer additional functionality.”
And he said that contractors will be able to add in their own apps as required.
Contractors could use their own tablets, although these may not cope well with the tough working environment and Drake said, “We do supply our own rugged tablet for construction.” He added that this is daylight-readable and waterproof, as well as being durable enough to cope with being dropped.
One key to the system is the new sensor units Trimble is using and Drake said, “We’ve got new inertial sensors with better functionality and accuracy and there are fewer delays in the system.”
Because the four sensors respond rapidly, the readings are fed back immediately so there is no risk of digging out too much before the system has time to respond. The new inertial measurement units (IMUs) are designed to be rugged and durable and can be used on excavators as well as dozers and graders. The IMU system is also connected to the internet, so that a contractor can view machine progress remotely - and this also allows for real-time data flow on production rates to give an accurate picture of site progress.
Further developments are planned and Drake said that the architecture will also give plenty of scope for additional functionality in the future, with links to systems from other divisions within Trimble to boost overall capabilities.