Coming out on TOP: Topcon’s Machine Control Technology

Coming out on TOP: Topcon’s Machine Control Technology

Tech savvy contractor, Buckingham Group is making use of the latest in machine control technology from Topcon and Komatsu at a huge new logistics centre build in the north of England. Construction Plant News reports.

When the comet 67P had a very close encounter with a European Space Agency probe the world marvelled at humanity’s capacity for ingenuity.

Amongst the myriad problems that the team behind the project had to overcome there was the not inconsiderable hurdle that no human hand could have been capable of guiding this valiant little probe to its intended target.

A radio signal travelling the 500 million kilometre distance from the Philae lander to planet earth would take some thirty minutes, making it impossible to either steer or react.

So what was to be done? And are you thinking – “I must have accidentally gone on the wrong website, where’s the stuff about plant”?

Well, with the Intelligent Machine Control available on Komatsu’s PC210 LCi-10 the parallels are very real. This GPS controlled construction machine provides for the first time real-time bucket position and control, which means that engineers can determine how and where it digs from afar and instruct operators accordingly.

Achieved by a stroke sensor on the hydraulic system, the factory-fitted machine control feature is equipped with auto-stop control, which anticipates as soon as the bucket might destroy the target surface and will hydraulically stop the offending movement.

If you have an open bucket on the surface it will not close, if your bucket is 1 metre above the target surface it will not lower it more than 1 metre, underground utilities are protected, and mass excavation is achieved with reduced wastage and less time.

Buckingham Group is making use of a Komatsu PC210 LCi-10 excavator through David Williams Plant Hire, and is also utilising Topcon’s Sitelink and 3D Machine Control at the £400 million iPort logistics scheme in Doncaster.

The site will eventually see some 6 million sq ft of warehouse space completed, across a 700 acre site, and will include a new freight terminal.

With IMC the operator is under complete control but he’s also not allowed to go beyond a predetermined depth.

Topcon supplies the screen and the GPS antennae for the Komatsu system but this is a factory fitted option, and operators who want to benefit from a semi-automatic excavator will need to invest in the Japanese manufacturer’s PC210 LCi-10 machine.

The advantage of TopCon’s 3D machine control is that it can be fitted to any excavator, providing a visual guide to an operator that can significantly enhance their productivity.

“With the line and level information all in front of him on a control box the driver can dig far more accurately,” explains Andrew McCann, TopCon Machine Control Business Development Manager – South.

“He can also get to work straight away because there’s no need for setting out, and there’s no need for any else to be there to guide him, which also improves site safety. Having that kind of guidance can turn an average operator into a good one, and as soon as it clicks with an operator you simply couldn’t take it off them.”

In order to err on the side of caution many drivers will over dig because, when bases are being filled, too little concrete represents a disaster, which then incurs increased costs in filling that over dig to the correct level.

SiteLink allows project managers to upload model revisions to the cloud and that automatically gets pushed out to the machine. That information is then immediately available to the operator through the technology specialist’s 3D Machine Control.

Traditionally if the levels of the target dig are altered an engineer might have to drive round to the individual machines to update them individually and on a large civil engineering project where there might be 20 machines on a 10 kilometre job it could well be a task that could take all day. If the engineer is not even on site then that timeframe is extended still further.

With SiteLink, however, a message appears on the operator’s screen, and model revisions are acquired in real time.

Where Buckingham’s have seen real benefits is in getting as built information straight back from the machine, because they know the design of what they’re digging, and they know where the buckets been in relation to that design, they can digitally reproduce an as built drawing at the click of a button.

In addition, where previously concrete bases where the preserve of sub contractors with SiteLink the relative simplicity of the task means that Buckingham’s own staff are able to carry out the job, which means that the Topcon system has actually changed the way the contractor works.

From the site engineer’s point of view, assessing progress on a vast site like the iPort can be done almost at first glance, and with the ability to dial in to the system from any location it can be achieved virtually anywhere in the country.

A simple red/orange/green coding system identifies the status of the dig, and the base will turn green on the display when the target depth has been reached.

SiteLink also has the facility to give tasks a specific timeframe, so that the programme of works is being adhered to, and the system will report how much material has been cut.


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