Taking Grading into the Future
Cat Mastless Grade tech takes grading into the future.
New Zealand Caterpillar dealer, Terra Cat, has introduced Mastless Grade with 3D to its rugged Cat 140 and 150 motor graders. The factory integrated system is designed to boost productivity and maximise grade accuracy, utilising a seamless set-up which eliminates masts, allowing the machine to go further and do more.
For Allan Dippie, Director of Wanaka headquartered Central Machine Hire, the arrival of the company’s new Cat 140 motor grader with integrated Mastless Grade technology onboard, is the physical realisation of a step-change in the way his construction team will work in the future.
“It has been clear for some time now that GPS machine assist technology is definitely the way forward for the industry, and we’ve already seen this become standard on an increasing number of excavators, such as our Cat 313,” he says.
“But now that we can invest in this technology as an integrated feature of a grader as well, we have a fully equipped machine with the same capabilities as soon as it arrives on site. The grader is often both the first and the last machine on any site, completing the initial grade and then the final trim, so to have it deliver accuracy and extra productivity from the moment it arrives with our team is vital."
While the technology itself has always impressed, Allan is excited by the way the factory technology removes the time delay in getting third party systems retrofitted to equipment.
“We have long believed this technology offers huge benefits. Now that we’re seeing this technology integrated into the machine by the manufacturer at a factory level, that’s going to benefit both us as a company and our clients as a result,” he says.
Continuing the advances achieved with its next-generation excavator line-up, Cat has now introduced Mastless Grade with 3D to its rugged Cat 140 and 150 motor graders. The factory integrated system is designed to boost productivity, maximise grade accuracy – even on the most complex designs – and increase safety for those in the field while helping reduce wear and tear on the machine itself.
“Machine GPS systems have proven themselves in all sorts of construction scenarios here in New Zealand,” says Tim O’Meara, Manager – GCI, Terra Cat. “But removing the tall masts which traditionally housed GNSS antennas from the machine as Cat has now done, will prove an absolute game-changer for the industry.
“The new Mastless Grade system is based on the industry leading Trimble Earthworks platform and utilises GNSS receivers and Inertial Measurement Unit grade sensors to provide precise machine position in 3D and in real time. Previously, the masts that needed to be mounted to the ends of the moldboard would only give the driver blade position data; now the entire machine position is right there on the in-cab screen for the operator to refer to.
”The location of the GPS system’s masts used to limit the blade’s range of motion, as well as become a liability, with potential on-the-job damage to componentry representing a significant risk. But Cat has now eliminated the masts and associated cabling while still providing accurate automated grade functionality.
Cat Mastless Grade motor graders, such as Central Machine Hire’s new Cat 140, are now much better suited for finishing applications, such as side slopes and drains: tasks that were difficult if not completely unworkable with tall masts in position.
The Mastless system also incorporates Cat E-Fence; technology which prevents the moldboard from hitting the motor grader’s tyres and ladders and stops the circle from potentially damaging the link bar. Cat Grade Control Cross Slope Auto is also integrated at the factory level. This semi-automated system allows the operator to manually control one side of the blade, while the other side is automatically controlled to maintain pre-set cross slope design.
The arrival of Cat Mastless Grade has also seen the iconic heavy machinery manufacturer update the in-cab touchscreen display unit to accommodate this new functionality. Job-ready from the moment the engine is started, the operator can see the site plan in front of them on the tablet-like screen, while all grade control buttons are now integrated into the joystick for more intuitive operation.
Legacy M series and current non-3D enabled Cat graders can still be retrofitted with trusted Trimble Earthworks systems (including Mastless), all supplied by Sitech NZ, giving machines deployed to any project the ability to work with extra accuracy and efficiency.
For frontline, high production grading however, Tim says the on-site precision and seamless production measurement data that Cat’s integrated Mastless Grade system delivers will prove an essential part of the toolbox for civil construction entities engaged in larger, high-profile projects.
“With project deadlines always a consideration, Cat Mastless Grade allows the operator to simply work faster and more efficiently,” he continues.
“We are closely aligned to Sitech Solutions – the New Zealand Trimble dealer – so when you combine the Terra Cat technical support network and Sitech Construction Services, you have a powerful team that can provide total site solutions and support.
“The Mastless system allows the machine to work in closer proximity to existing structures and extend the blade out past the limit of where the GNSS masts would normally allow. This means the grader is useful in more applications and can achieve an accurate finish in fewer passes, saving time and fuel costs.
“And because the operator isn’t trying to see ‘around’ the masts, they have better visibility around the machine as well, enhancing safety on the jobsite.
”Tim says interest in and uptake of Cat’s Mastless Grade-enabled machines across Australasia has been very positive. In Australia, the volume of sales of the new motor graders has been around 10 times that predicted by Caterpillar. Now, it’s New Zealand’s turn.
“Interest is very high. Aside from the automated grade technology we’re now introducing with the machine, the evolution of Cat’s powerful C9 engine offers reductions in both fuel burn and CO₂ emissions, which is also acting as a strong incentive for Kiwi construction entities,” says Tim. Long-time Terra Cat customer Allan Dippie is equally enthusiastic about the pending arrival of his company’s latest frontline fleet addition.
“As I understand it, we are the first in New Zealand to utilise the new Cat Mastless Grade technology,” he concludes. “We are certainly looking forward to getting the machine out into the subdivision work we need it for, and we’re positive it’s going to give us exceptional results.”