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My path to 3D machine control

KSSS

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Feb 27, 2005
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Idaho
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excavation
So it has been painfully obvious to me over the last couple years that 3D is important. It is nearly impossible to compete with the competition who has 3D/GPS machine control on many projects. Several times this year on bids, the spec calls for GPS equipment to be incorporated on the project. Aside from requirements like this, the shear time and labor savings of 3D machine control makes it a game changer on capturing bids and being more profitable when you do get the bid.

So my thought process has been to focus on what aspect of the various project is causing the most pain in not being 3D (I have 2D on two excavators and a box grader). It came down to excavating down to subgrade on building pads and completing asphalt/concrete grade on parking lots. While not impossible to do with staking, the time, money in staking, restaking projects, and the over/under ex done when doing it by the eye of the operators is very painful as well. The next item I think is most important to me is the excavator.

The next point I am deliberating is what piece of equipment gives me the most flexibility/capability at a price point that I can justify.

Here is where I am at currently, but am open to hearing other opinions.


I would mount this on my Minitour.

I would run this off of a Total Station, and while there are some limitations that, it will give me the accuracy for asphalt and concrete prep. I can also use the total station for other things as well, but that's of lessor concern.

This Sharp Grade attachment, because the ends can hydraulicly fold in, I can use it like a box grader. I currently have a Sharp Grade HD B87 2D box grader, that I have presold if I go this route. I currently have a Bobcat grader attachment as well that I will sell. Fully extended the blade length is 11'. With the weight, power and the amount of track that the Minitour puts on the ground, I think this will be very effective at cutting grade at a productive level.

I like this over a dedicated compact grader, its cheaper, works better in tight areas, easier to transport and for the size of project I do it fits better.

There are 3 comparably sized excavating companies here using this same method. They 3D'd this attachment (they all use a BC grader) as their 3D equipped machine and use 2D or eyeball it to get close and finish with this concept for precision.

I am about 90% sure who's 3D system I will use, but I will see that the thoughts are on this before I discuss that.

I am curious what the thoughts are on this.
 

CM1995

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KS how is the search going?

Missed this back in April but here's what I am currently looking at. Went to a Cat demo of the new 265 and put an order on one. Also looking at the Cat grader blade with wings and outfitting it with Trimble/Sitech GPS.

GPS has been such a game changer on our D3 and now 325 that I want to implement it on a CTL. The main function of this CTL setup will be to fine grade parking lots where we don't have to move the D3 back in. It's roughly $300 each way to move the D3 so it will not only be a money savings but a time savings since we can mob the machine behind a pickup.

Interested to hear your experience.
 

hvy 1ton

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Jul 24, 2006
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Lawrence, KS
I really like Sharpgrade's box blades. I haven't got to see one of their graders in person yet, but I imagine they just as good or better.
 

crane operator

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sw missouri
Isn't your new minotaur going to be kind of expensive to run, for just doing the final grading? You really don't need all that power and weight to just take off the last 3/4"? That and I'm just curious on how this works out, so if I make a comment here, I'll get notifications....
 

CM1995

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Isn't your new minotaur going to be kind of expensive to run, for just doing the final grading? You really don't need all that power and weight to just take off the last 3/4"? That and I'm just curious on how this works out, so if I make a comment here, I'll get notifications....

IIRC KS'a Minotaur has rubber tracks? Shouldn't be much more expensive to run than our 279's.

In order to utilize the latest 3D tech either GPS or total station, one needs the newest machine to put it on. Neither one of my 279's will run Earthworks without some hardware redo which doesn't make sense to invest on an older machine like a CTL. I'd rather buy a new 265, sell a 279 and set it up on Earthworks so the interface is consistent across our 3 most used machines.

These systems offer a lot more than just trimming the last inch or so.
 

hvy 1ton

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Isn't your new minotaur going to be kind of expensive to run, for just doing the final grading?
I doubt it's more expensive per hour than an ~80 horsepower dozer with triple grousers and that's really starting to catch on. Eberhard in Austria has been using triple grouser dozers with blade wings up to D6R to place and final grade subbase at least as long as I've been on the internet.
 

KSSS

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So the process is still on going, but almost done. They have the GPS on the grader and are putting together a package to run the controls on the Minitour control handles. I don't plan on using this just to grade the final pass prior to asphalt or paving but to also making large cuts and fills on building sites. Sharp grade is rigging up a set of larger wings for the grader attachment for the Minitour. They are coming back out shortly to install the switches and finalize the install.

We pushed 6,500 cy with the Minitour so far, its ability to push material is just flat impressive. I chose the grader attachment because I can rough in a jobsite with the dozer (not planning on 3Ding the dozer at least not yet), put the grader on with 3D and cut exactly to subgrade and then bring in the fill material and put all to exact grade with one machine. I can do everything with the this Sharp Grade grader that I did with my Sharp Grade box, but I can also do all the things that a grader of this type can do as well. The rippers on the back of the Minitour gives me the abiltiy to grade tougher conditions with the grader attachment.

As far as the technology, if your not familiar with how all this works, it is worth investigating. While I knew the concept and now much more knowledgeable on it This LPS system, using a total station is exact, none of the issues you have with global GPS, and its more affordable, it is also scalable. The limiting factor is distance (depends on total station and cant run more than one machine off one total station. I think Topcon has an incredible system, which is why I went that way. Until I fully operational and have run it, I wont say anything more about it than that, but on paper and talking to those that run it, it is really a step above other options. I say that and I have been very happy with Scietech and Trimble, but right now I think Topcon has really captured the market for compact GPS/LPS technology.
 

CM1995

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I went GPS as we run an excavator and dozer at the same time in addition to working on sites where a total station is not optimum. Regardless the tech is impressive and has way more to offer than just finish/final grading. The total station will be much tighter on tolerances than GPS and one can work inside buildings.

Our new 325 is packed with standard features as well as the Sitech added tech. From being able to weigh out and make sure the trucks are averaging 25 tons to cutting final grade this machine can do it. The best comparison I can make between our 2011 321DL and the 2024 325 is the 321 is a 90's Nokia flip phone and the 325 is the latest iPhone.

Love the 321 and will never get rid of it for the basic fact it's simple and non DEF but we can't compete and make money with just it.
 

CaseFan13

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Oct 2, 2011
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74
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Flatwoods, Pennsylvania
Hey KSSS, if you’re starting to get some real hours on your 550, I’d be interested in a formal review. I’m considering one later this year possibly. I could use a TV620 and a GPS dozer on some projects so I think this would fit the bill nicely.
 

Queenslander

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Australia
I received a quote today for SharpGrade’s 116 model and couldn’t believe what I was reading.
It was way dearer, like 75% more than Cat’s GB124.
Definitely no electronics on the SG quote and, I assume, the same for the Cat blade.
Is this what you blokes are seeing stateside or has someone stuffed up big time?
 

CM1995

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Running what I brung and taking what I win
I received a quote today for SharpGrade’s 116 model and couldn’t believe what I was reading.
It was way dearer, like 75% more than Cat’s GB124.
Definitely no electronics on the SG quote and, I assume, the same for the Cat blade.
Is this what you blokes are seeing stateside or has someone stuffed up big time?

Q - I haven't asked for pricing yet on a GB 124 but getting ready to put the package together. When I get a quote I'll share.
 

KSSS

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excavation
Hey KSSS, if you’re starting to get some real hours on your 550, I’d be interested in a formal review. I’m considering one later this year possibly. I could use a TV620 and a GPS dozer on some projects so I think this would fit the bill nicely.


I started one on the 550 a while ago and have informally been adding to it on other threads. After the LPS system is installed, I will do another. Buying the 550 was probably one of the best decisions I have made equipment wise. Thats a strong statement, and what is right for me, may not be for another operation, but it has become extremely valuable for us. We use it for dozing, all the other tasks you do with a big CTL, and once the LPS system is operational it will become even more valuable. I haven't yet used it for mulching but we are actively bidding mulching projects and will use it for that as well.

After 100 hours, I have had zero issues warranty issues. My only complaint has been the lack of aux switches on the dozer handles. This issue is what we are solving by 3D printing additions to the handles to hold CAN buttons for the Sharp Grade. As far as 620 verse 550, the lack of buttons is something to consider depending on what your doing with it.

We have been building large pads at a two county landfills, all material is pushed up on site, everything is trucked from that site to the pad site. Thats why I know exactly how many yards I have pushed. We then move the material on the pad with the 550 and a 370. We also use the rippers on the 550 to scarify the pad before we water it down for compaction. The machine has worked its way into numerous aspects of the project. The 550 is about 40k more than a 620 as far as I can tell. Worth everything penny for me, your situation may be different.

Lastly I will say again, it is not hard to run the dozer, You Tube suggests it takes numerous hours to get good at holding grade. I have not found that to be true. The machine is very instinctive to run, at least I think so.
 

KSSS

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2005
Messages
4,384
Location
Idaho
Occupation
excavation
I received a quote today for SharpGrade’s 116 model and couldn’t believe what I was reading.
It was way dearer, like 75% more than Cat’s GB124.
Definitely no electronics on the SG quote and, I assume, the same for the Cat blade.
Is this what you blokes are seeing stateside or has someone stuffed up big time?

I don't think they are attachments that directly compare. I paid 57K for a Sharp Grade 128, it had some demo hours on it. That is with the 2D system.
 

Queenslander

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Australia
The SharpGrade is certainly heavier.
We have a 255 on order and at 1300 kg I think a G116 would be as much as it could handle.
The GB124, although wider, is under 950 kg.
Here at the moment, the 116 with all software, Bluetooth tablet etc. for 2D would be similar to what you paid for your machine when converted to our Pacific peso.
 
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