When engineers consider next-generation construction equipment, much of the attention today centers on electrification, alternative-fuel engines, automated functions that increase precision and reduce waste, and “smart” control networks that wirelessly tie together all the machines on a worksite for greater efficiency and productivity.
Perhaps a bit under the radar, but potentially game-changing, is the possibility of totally autonomous machines. Equipment that eliminates the human operator would be capable of working 24/7, improve precision and repeatability, and manage itself to predict impending failures and optimize uptime.
Such machines would demand “intelligent” cylinders and hydraulic motors, electronically controlled valves and pumps, and networks of sensors that monitor a circuit’s operating conditions and performance, all tied to advanced controllers that work hand-in-hand with the overriding machine hardware and software, guidance systems, and remote supervisory control networks.
Several pieces of autonomous equipment were on display or actually running at the recent Conexpo 2023. Here’s a look at a few.
Develon, formerly known as Doosan Construction Equipment, demonstrated its commitment to the future of construction sites with updates to its Concept-X and XiteCloud smart construction platform. Concept-X, unveiled in 2019 as the world’s first automated construction solution, was previously demonstrated in Korea performing every-day jobsite tasks.
The latest version of the technology-based system, called Concept-X2, includes:
• A new dozer added to autonomous equipment lineup.
• Autonomous driving and blade control based on global navigation satellite system (GNSS).
• Automated 3D grading with tiltrotator accessory.
• Enhanced machine-learning-based auto digging and loading.
• Integrated work-planning algorithms incorporated into the system.
• Advanced E-Stop safety technology.
The Concept-X2 autonomous construction equipment on display included the DD100-CX dozer and DX225-CX crawler excavator. Both machines featured a new cabinless design and a linear core design language. Live demonstrations of the autonomous construction equipment took place in the “demo pit” in the Develon booth.
The company also promoted the latest developments of its all-in-one smart construction platform: XiteCloud. It lets customers manage multiple tasks such as surveys, terrain analysis, equipment operation and construction management on a single platform, thereby reducing construction costs and saving time while increasing work accuracy, which in turn raises productivity. XiteCloud also allows customers to manage multiple projects, accumulating and managing data that can be used for future decision-making.
Components of the advanced automation technology include real-time fleet monitoring with location tracking and operation monitoring; 3D machine guidance; automation; safety management, including preventing collisions between construction equipment and workers; and digital twin-based earthwork analysis.
Volvo Construction Equipment had the Volvo LX03, an autonomous concept wheel loader, on display at Conexpo. According to the company, the machine is breaking new grounds in terms of smart, safe and sustainable construction solutions. The prototype represents a milestone in the next stage of Volvo CE’s exploration into machine intelligence and its determination to decarbonize the construction industry of the future.
The original concept was devised by Volvo CE and LEGO Technic engineers and designers. The LX03 is said to be the first real-world example of a self-learning wheel loader with the “intelligence” to make decisions, perform tasks and interact with humans.
LX03 is built with components based on the existing L25 Electric drivetrain — making it a zero-emission machine. It features a unique scissor frame that allows greater freedom of movement and increased efficiency. It also offers a unique bucket sequence whereby the bucket can be filled by simply lowering the rear part, or counterweight, of the machine, requiring no work from the loading unit at the front and improving stability during the loading process.
When emptying the load, the counterweight, which also doubles as the battery pack, can then be lifted off the ground — allowing the bucket to reach much further than possible with a conventional machine. This motion pattern improves energy efficiency, because it not only lets the machine use its own weight to create greater lifting power, but also allows for larger bucket fills thereby reducing the loading cycle.
Sensors in the wheels ensure superb traction and enable the LX03 to set the direction of the rim-pull of the wheels, when working in a pile for example. And by changing attachments, the loader can carry out different tasks, from scooping material into trucks to lifting various objects and loads, for work across diverse segments from landscaping to mining.
The machine has an operating weight of 5,000 kg, working load of 2,000 kg, top speed of 38 km/hr, and battery capacity of 40 kWh and run time of 4 to 8 hr.
The Volvo LX03 joins an ever-growing portfolio of autonomous and semi-autonomous machinery concepts which will be a mainstay of jobsites of the future. While not commercially available, engineers expect that valuable insights from the LX03 will feed into future applications.
Built Robotics is taking advantage of the sizeable growth in the solar energy sector by automating the installation of support structures for solar-panel farms.
The RPD 35 robotic pile driver is reportedly the world’s first autonomous piling system. It combines four steps: The RPD 35 surveys, distributes, drives, and records every pile all in one package. With a two-person support crew, the machine can install over 300 piles per day – up to 5x better productivity compared to traditional methods.
The unit can carry payloads of 22,000 lb and up to 192 piles. The machine is positioned at a solar array block, and the corresponding pile plot plan is uploaded to the robot’s computer. Thanks to advanced software and hardware, the machine’s robot picks up a pile, and its custom-engineered hammer installs each pile in the ground — working at 500 blows per minute, up to 24 hours a day. Real-time kinematics GPS and advanced sensors ensure the installation meets accuracy tolerances from every major solar-tracker manufacturer.
Also introduced at Conexpo was the Bobcat RogueX, a next-generation machine that explores the capabilities of electric power, autonomous operation, and dual lift-arm geometry. The one-of-a-kind concept machine resembles a track loader.
According to company officials, the RogueX was designed with consideration for the worksite of the future and how customer needs may evolve — with a focus on ease of use, remote operations, autonomous functionality, and sustainable operations.
Emphasizing remote and autonomous capabilities, Bobcat engineers eliminated the operator station. By building the loader without a cab and using advanced kinematics, RogueX features next-generation unique functionality including both vertical-path and radial-path lift capabilities in one machine. The unit produces zero emissions as it features a lithium-ion battery, electric drive system and no hydraulics. RogueX is in the early R&D stage at Bobcat.
Filed Under: Mobile Hydraulic Tips