Construction equipment

Graders are getting better with technology

Motor graders have traditionally been one of the most difficult pieces of equipment to master, but manufacturers have incorporated technology to make operation easier and increase production and efficiency.

There have been a number of key technology additions from the four major grader OEMs since Construction Equipment last reviewed the pre-pandemic category.

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John Deere took a phased approach, adding features to existing models rather than changing model designations. The company’s already technology-rich GP series has been further improved.

First, Deere has expanded the capabilities of its Grade Pro (GP) series of motor graders with new technologies, including Blade Stow and Auto-Gain for Cross Slope.

The features, which also include machine damage prevention, are designed to deliver higher productivity, increased uptime and lower daily operating costs during operation.

“Our customers challenge us to find new ways to integrate smart technologies into Deere products,” says Luke Kurth, product marketing manager, motor graders. “They are looking for solutions to make the equipment easier to use and more efficient. These new features help new operators get up to speed faster, and all operators can take full advantage of the productivity of Deere graders.

Blade Stow and Auto-Gain are designed to provide greater operator simplicity. Blade Stow, standard with Machine Presets or Automation Suite, adds a configurable setting to automatically stow the blade at the touch of a button.

With Auto-Gain, the machine automatically adjusts the Cross Slope gain setting on the fly based on operating conditions, eliminating the need for operators to make manual adjustments. Auto-Gain improves operator productivity by ensuring precise blade movement in constantly changing conditions.

GP Series Motor Graders can be further enhanced with optional Machine Damage Prevention. When activated, the feature reduces the risk of downtime by preventing the moldboard from inadvertently contacting the tires, cab steps or frame, and the saddle from contacting the table.

SmartGrade grader models have received additional enhancements for increased flexibility and productivity, including greater file handling capacity, up to 20% faster file transfers, and real-time radio kinematic (RTK) stability increased, says Deere. SmartGrade machines are now compatible with network RTK and local positioning system technology.

Additionally, John Deere now includes the factory-installed Premium Circle on all SmartGrade motor graders. The fully sealed bearing and pinion help reduce maintenance costs and downtime, Deere says, by eliminating wear inserts and ensuring the circle remains tight during operation, maximizing accuracy while dramatically increasing the torque and the speed of the circle.

Deere then added fully programmable Auto-Pass and Auto-Shift Plus, plus Configurable Float on GP Series units as well as SmartGrade Remote Assistance on SmartGrade motor graders.

Auto-Pass programs machine movements at the start and end of grading passes. By adjusting the speed of these movements and rotating the blade 180 degrees, the grader will simultaneously place the blade on the ground while preparing for the next pass.

Available as an option on John Deere GP Series graders and standard on John Deere SmartGrade graders, this feature can also be programmed to raise and rotate the blade at the end of a grading pass, mirroring the finished angle.

Auto-Shift Plus eliminates the need to use the inching pedal. This allows the operator to use the throttle and brake, providing better control of the machine. Auto-Shift Plus allows the machine to come to a complete stop without stalling.

All GP Series motor graders have a configurable float, which allows float switches to be programmed to control any auxiliary function, allowing up to three float switches to be programmed through the monitor.

SmartGrade Remote Support connects the dealer to the SmartGrade grader. The dealer can troubleshoot machine problems and update the dealership’s grade control software, reducing downtime. Fleets can use SmartGrade Remote Support for remote transfer of project files. In addition, all machine problems can be solved remotely.

Caterpillar has added mastless grade control to its graders.

Cat Grade with 3D for Motor Graders is designed to improve the efficiency, accuracy and productivity of automated grading systems without the limitations associated with GPS masts.

The mastless integrated leveling system can be factory installed and calibrated on new machines, or as a field retrofit for existing models. Upgrade kits are available for pre- and post-2019 M-Series models with or without the Attachment Ready option.

Previous GPS systems for motor graders required 6-foot-tall masts mounted at the ends of the moldboard, Cat says, exposing the components to potential damage and theft. The antennas/receivers were often removed and installed daily, limiting the machine’s time in the dirt, and the masts limited the range of motion of the blade.

The masts also limited the types of applications for the grader. An E-Fence feature on Cat Grade factory installations with 3D is designed to prevent the moldboard from contacting the tires or ladder, and to prevent the circle from potentially damaging the tie bar.

The Cat 140, 150 and 160 motor graders were the first models equipped with the new mastless Cat Grade with 3D.

The two grader models from Case Construction Equipment are the 836C and the 856C.

The moldboard is designed to tilt, tilt and move laterally, and can be extended with available horizontal and bilateral extensions that further increase material retention for ultra-fine grading applications. A hydraulically actuated five-position saddle allows operation over 90 degrees.

Case claims its motor graders feature one of the most intelligent high-precision load-sensing hydraulics available on the market. A direct actuated axial piston pump delivers only the required amount of hydraulic pressure where it is needed.

Komatsu’s 218-horsepower GD655-7 offers cabin upgrades not available on the Dash 6 model. Curb weight is slightly heavier, at 38,140 pounds, and it carries the same 14-foot blade.

The steering wheel is slightly smaller to provide more visibility and space for the operator. A steering lever allows the operator to make small steering adjustments without having to turn the steering wheel. Multi-position adjustable armrests and a high-capacity air suspension seat provide added operator comfort. An operator presence monitoring system alerts the operator if they leave the seat without properly locking the controls.

“The GD655-7 provides operators with a whole new ergonomic work environment and the spacious new cab provides more space for operators working long days,” said Bruce Boebel, Senior Product Manager, Wheeled Products, Komatsu America. “Operators will appreciate the new low-effort steering gear and levers, new transmission controls and center-of-articulation stop feature. Together they significantly reduce operator fatigue.

The 2-mode, 3-step variable power control allows selection of the appropriate mode, economy or power, to match operating parameters to application requirements for optimum fuel economy.

The Komatsu Diesel Particulate Filter (KDPF) and other aftertreatment components are designed in conjunction with the engine for efficiency and long life, the company says. Over 98% of KDPF regeneration is done passively, with no operator action required and no interference with machine operation.

The Dash 7 model also features a finger-operated forward-neutral-reverse shift lever to simplify operation and reduce required hand movement.

Komatsu’s Powershift transmission, designed and built specifically for Komatsu motor graders, provides full power shifting on the go, as well as creep capability and automatic shifting in higher ranges.

According to the company, the industry-exclusive dual-mode transmission (8 forward, 4 reverse) allows operators to benefit from the high travel speeds and reduced fuel consumption of a direct drive, as well as the effort of increased traction and control of a torque converter.

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