Drones, paperless systems, smart wearables – the advent of new technology adapted for use in infrastructure and civil construction today paints a unique and futuristic picture of the modern worksite.
Major firms like Microsoft are throwing their hat into the construction ring with the likes of its HoloLens – a visual headset that uses mixed reality technology and can allow users to overlay 3D building plans over a job site. Even companies such as DeWalt are exploring heated jackets for construction workers that are not only lighter but have longer battery life and the potential to be recharged in a car.
It’s fair to say we’re not far off some of visions of the future first heralded in films such as Blade Runner, Minority Report or even beloved 1960s cartoon series, The Jetsons.
While some aspects of the ‘futuristic’ construction and infrastructure project site may still seem blue-sky thinking and a few decades away from becoming the norm, machine control has quickly become a mainstay of project sites today.
“Machine control technology is becoming a must-have option on many projects, with a range of systems that utilise laser, sonar, GNSS, total stations or a combination of them to guide the operator to grade accurately, efficiently and cost-effectively,” Joel Seddon, Machine Systems Product Manager for Topcon’s Australian distributor Position Partners, says.
While there are a wide variety of options in machine control out there, Mr. Seddon warns about getting stuck with a system that can’t be upgraded or swapped between machines.
“Every job is different and a single machine control system might not cut it for all of them. For example, grading house pads can be done very effectively with a 2D laser or sonar based system, whereas grading a road or larger project may need GNSS or a total station if there is dense tree coverage, overbridges or even tunnels,” Mr. Seddon says.
Contractors should shop around to find the most flexible solution to suit their needs, one that will grow with their business and can utilise a range of technology to suit the application and the tolerance required.
Mr. Seddon says new machines are increasingly coming with integrated systems fitted in the factory or by the machine dealer in Australia, with most graders and now some models of excavators and dozers arriving with basic machine control technology.
“The limitation with factory fitted systems is that often they are not upgradeable, so if you need a more sophisticated solution it can be difficult without starting again with a different option.”
Topcon, Mr. Seddon says, is the most flexible and easily adaptable brand on the market today.
“Customers can easily switch between entry-level systems and the most sophisticated technology we have to offer by swapping components in or out, without having to start again with a whole new option.”
Position Partners also offers comprehensive hire options across the product range, allowing contractors to use the system only when they need it, without the capital outlay.
“Another thing to consider is that the factory fitted options will only work on that machine,” Mr Seddon continues. “You can’t swap them between machines as you can with most Topcon systems, so there is a limitation if you are keen to stretch one system between multiple machines.”
Mr. Seddon says Topcon technology is compatible across all machine types, makes and models, making it a highly flexible and customisable solution.
A GNSS machine control system, for instance, can be adapted with a high precision laser receiver that will deliver millimetre vertical precision for fine grading tasks, a technology he says is unique to Topcon.
“Topcon’s key differentiator is the adaptability of its components – you can make a 2D system 3D, or vice-versa, swap a grader system to a dozer, grader, excavator or even a skid steer or paver,” Mr. Seddon explains.
“The factory fit options are a great way to increase a single machine’s capability to get to grade for basic tasks, whereas a Topcon aftermarket option will help all a contractor’s machines get to grade, no matter what challenges the job holds.”