Komatsu’s Intelligent Machine Control Makes A World Of Difference
Komatsu Ltd., the second largest global manufacturer and supplier of earth-moving equipment for the construction, surface and underground mining, and forestry industries, has developed Intelligent Machine Control, or iMC for short, which refers a series of technologies capable of dramatically improving the productivity of your equipment.
Machine Control Fundamentals
The machine control systems found on Komatsu and other construction equipment consist of various interconnected components that enable the tracking of a machine’s precise location on a construction site. These components include sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, and GPS (Global Positioning System) and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technologies, which work with proprietary software to make sense of the equipment data and help you manage the machine’s movements.
Prior to beginning work on the site, contractors need to generate a 3D map of the worksite or mark a reference point. With machine control technologies, these activities can take significantly less time than traditional manual staking. The operator then uses a control box with a graphics interface in the machine’s cab to view real-time feedback and manage the system’s automated functions.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Komatsu isn’t the first company to see the value of combining these techniques to increase productivity, and it won’t be the last, but there’s a substantial difference between an aftermarket machine control system and the one that Komatsu installs at the factory.
The primary drawback of aftermarket machine control systems is the lack of integration with the machine itself. Most often, these systems require the operator to install a mast outfitted with sensors to the leading edge of the machine – for instance, on the blade of a bulldozer. These systems tend to feature exposed wires spanning between the various sensing components and the control box located in the cab. Furthermore, workers usually need to install and calibrate the system every morning, delaying the start of the day’s work and requiring an operator with specialized knowledge.
Image: Komatsu’s iMC components are inconspicuous, fully integrated, and will revolutionize your productivity.
The Komatsu Difference
Komatsu’s iMC is fully integrated, so there’s no daily install required, and no wires dangling between sensors and the control box. The cab of a machine outfitted with Komatsu’s iMC technology has been designed around the control box, which makes for a much more intuitive and user-friendly operating experience. Komatsu’s integrated system is 13% more efficient than aftermarket machine systems, and provides a dramatic time-savings compared to manual grading and staking.
In 2014, Komatsu collaborated with Topcon Positioning Systems to create its first machine control-capable excavator. This machine featured an Auto Grade Assist feature designed to automatically adjust the height of the boom ensuring the bucket traced the design surface, and an Auto Stop Control, which prevented the machine from over- or under-cutting the target surface. Since then, Komatsu has further refined the technology and offers it on a wide variety of machines.
Image: iMC can take command of the blade movement throughout the grading process, yielding impressive results on each pass.
Today, Komatsu’s iMC systems consist of a factory-integrated sensor package, including a GNSS antenna installed on the top of the cab, an enhanced inertial measuring unit (IMU+) mounted to the chassis capable of delivering positional updates at a frequency of 100Hz, and robust stroke-sensing hydraulic cylinders that can detect and report the linear position of the piston rods. With these cylinders, the iMC system always knows the angle of the blade.
The touchscreen control box that comes installed in the cab of every iMC Komatsu machine features an easy-to-use interface, high-visibility mounting position in the cab, and adjustable viewing angles. From the control box, the operator has access to multiple machine control load presets, letting the operator tailor the machine’s response to material conditions, including dry, loose, sandy soils; wet, heavy clay materials; and everything in between.
Image: Komatsu Bulldozers with iMC feature four automated dozing modes that take the guesswork out of common tasks.
Depending on the machine it’s installed on, Komatsu iMC allows users to complete grading operations faster, achieve finish grade in fewer passes, perform less reworking, spend significantly less time placing grade stakes, and lower operating costs. The system can also improve material yields and fuel efficiency, and boost productivity from operators with varying degrees of experience and proficiency. The system is also capable of reducing wear and tear on the machines, letting them run more reliably and extending machine life.