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The fourth largest motor grader in the Caterpillar fleet, the new 14M3 is 5% to 6.5% heavier than its predecessor, at 57,250 lb (25,970 kg) operating weight. “It's a bigger machine by design,” said Caterpillar's Wade Porter.

Cat 14M3 'most technologically advanced' motor grader for construction

Caterpillar plans to showcase 40 machines at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2017 in March, one being its new 14M3 motor grader that features a larger engine, increased power to ground, and a host of integrated technology solutions such as the newly patented Stable Blade anti-bounce system, to increase operator efficiency and boost productivity levels.

Wade Porter, motor grader product application specialist, described Caterpillar’s M Series 3 motor graders including the new 14M3 as being the “most technologically advanced in the industry, based on facts and data.” Many of the exclusive, patented technologies in the 14M3 are shared across the entire M Series 3 platform, he said.

The fourth largest motor grader in the Caterpillar fleet, the 14M3 is the “bread-and-butter construction motor grader”—but it is also a viable machine for the mining sector, according to Porter. “When you put the 20.5 tires on it, a push block, a ripper and the 16-ft blade, you've got a very, very capable motor grader.”

A standard blade float feature allows the entire blade to follow the ground contour, or the toe of the blade can follow a hard surface, while the remaining cylinder is controlled manually. A 14-ft (4.3-m) moldboard is standard; the 16-ft (4.9-m) version is optional. A range of cutting edges and bits are available, as are a three-shank ripper, scarifier, and snow plow and snow-wing options.

Built in North Little Rock, Arkansas, the 14M3 is the only one in its size class now, Porter noted. “We see an industry opportunity, that's why we continue to manufacture the product,” he said. “Within North America, it's the right-sized machine for a lot of the heavy construction jobs.”

Larger engine, heavier machine, improved power to ground

A Cat C13 ACERT Tier 4 Final engine replaces the C11 used in the predecessor model, providing up to 8% more power and torque. Net power range is 238-285 hp (178-213 kW) and maximum torque is 1137 lb·ft (1542 N·m). The standard Variable Horsepower system is designed to effectively match power requirements in all gears. A Consistent Power To Ground feature automatically changes engine power levels to compensate for cooling fan speed variations, resulting in consistent power delivery in all ambient temperatures and working conditions.

“The constant power-to-ground strategy is new to the 14-sized product, we introduced it with our larger 16 and 18 M3 products,” said Porter. “With an on-demand hydraulic fan, it's only going to turn as fast as it needs to based on the ambient conditions and the thermal temps underneath the hood. As we speed up or slow down that fan based on those conditions, we’ll either increase or save power.”

The 14M3 is 5% to 6.5% heavier than its predecessor, at 57,250 lb (25,970 kg) operating weight. “It's a bigger machine by design,” said Porter. “As we put more iron in the engine enclosure area, it increases the rear-end weight of the machine; motor graders need to have proper balance, rear to front. So we added more weight to the front (about 1% more than predecessor).”

Compared to the 14M, the new machine has about 6% more power to ground. In terms of drawbar power, the 14M3 has about 9% more drawbar pull. The machine can do about 20% more work than its predecessor, according to Porter, and it's about 10% more efficient.

“We’ve got more torque, greater lugging ability in the engine (torque rise of 41%),” he said. “When you go up 2 L in displacement, that engine can work at a more comfortable operating zone, which helps it be more fuel efficient and productive.”

It features a standard ECO mode that boosts fuel economy by limiting high idle speed to 1750 rpm in working gears, while still maintaining lugging power.

“If a customer chooses to turn on that feature, they're going to save upwards of 5% in terms of fuel burn,” he said.

An engine over-speed protection system prevents downshifting at excessive ground speeds, and under-speed protection prevents engine stall by automatically downshifting the transmission at lower ground speeds, to allow engine recovery to peak torque levels. The standard automatic differential lock disengages and re-engages automatically when threshold parameters are met.

An optional compression brake helps save the brake life of the machine. “With this motor grader's weight and power now, it can definitely get into the mining space. In the mines, you start working on more aggressive grades; the compression brake as an optional attachment definitely comes in handy,” he said.

The 8F/6R power-shift transmission has a wide operating range for application flexibility and maximum productivity. The Caterpillar Advanced Productivity Electronic Control System (APECS) enhances gear-to-gear shifting, through improved software intelligence that maintains consistent torque and smooths out shift points.

APECS was first introduced on its wheel loaders before migrating to the motor graders.

“The hardware of the transmission is virtually the same; it's the software side that we're starting to get more intelligent in,” Porter said. “It's a true event-based shifting transmission...We're using software and algorithms to look at all the conditions that are happening to the machine while it's working—the loads, the speeds, and changes in [conditions] in terms of the powertrain.”

The Shuttle Shift feature enables directional shifts without slowing engine speed or using the inching pedal. An available Autoshift system allows programming shift points to best match requirements of specific applications.

Operator-assist integrated technology

The 14M3 features a range of integrated technology solutions that aim to improve operator performance and productivity while reducing operating costs. The fully scalable, factory-integrated Cat GRADE with Cross Slope is one example. The system allows operators to maintain desired cross slope by automatically controlling one side of the blade.

“A lot of the work that motor graders do is simple slope control,” said Porter. “Throughout the day there are many common slopes that operators will use...They know what side of the road they're working, they might want a 4% crown, 6% shoulders and 20% ditch slopes. You can program up to nine preset sloped targets on a Caterpillar grader,” which is patented and exclusive in the industry, according to Porter.

“Not only can you program the slope value but you can program the direction of the slope fall. So depending on which way you want the water to drain, you're able to program that ahead of time,” he said. “The biggest benefit to the operator is you push one button and you're set up for the right slope target and the right slope direction. Without these preset targets, you're having to stop your machine and reset the target with every pass, and that takes time.”

A new, larger Message Display fully integrated into the front dash provides better visibility to the cross slope performance screen and in direct line-of-sight to the blade. Whether operators use cross slope in the automatic mode or as manual indicate-only, they have a clear view of critical slope information required during operation. The display was previously positioned on the right-side B-post.

Cat Advanced Control Joysticks allow the operator to manipulate any Cat GRADE or AccuGrade blade control system while maintaining control of all other machine and implement functions. The advanced joysticks also can be configured for use with auxiliary functions, such as snow wing control for snow removal operations. They come standard with Cat GRADE with Cross Slope or can be ordered as a stand-alone attachment.

The joysticks were brought to market specifically for the M Series 3 motor graders.

“The best part about these controls is we're taking the automated blade control buttons and switches that used to be at the base of the joysticks and integrating them into the main controllers,” Porter explained. “So operators can keep their hands on the joysticks during operation, they have full control of the machine, full control of the blade, and now they have full control of the automatics—whether they’re using Cross Slope, AccuGrade Sonic, Laser, GPS or Universal Total Station. This is a major advancement in operator efficiency, reduction of fatigue and increased comfort.”

The newly patented Stable Blade feature is a “first-of-its-kind” anti-bounce system for a motor grader. It detects and minimizes machine bounce by automatically controlling the throttle during operation, with no operator intervention required. The system helps eliminate rework, saving time and reducing fuel burn.

“This is the [technology] you should be most excited about,” said Porter. “When the motor grader starts to bounce, most operators just let off the throttle, slow the machine down, it kind of stabilizes and then get back into the throttle—it's going to happen again, because you're traveling at that speed, you're in that gear, you're in that sweet spot where the bounce wants to occur. Stable Blade takes over that control.” 

Stable Blade works with a sensor in conjunction with the engine and the Electronic Throttle Control feature, similar to adaptive cruise control. “The system says, ‘Okay, you want to run 1800 rpm in 4th gear, lock it, sit back and run your blade,’” Porter explained. “As that sensor feels the harmonic bounce about to occur, it will decelerate your machine automatically, slow you down until stable, and then modulate your acceleration back to your intended target. It happens before the cutting edge ever damages the surface—that's the key.”

Caterpillar tests found that the Stable Blade system can reduce bounce by 35% and save up to 14% in fuel burn by eliminating rework.

Another patented and exclusive technology is Auto Articulation, which combines two functions into one by automatically articulating with steering input. This feature, which was based on customer feedback, improves maneuverability and performance in tight working spaces, enhances operator comfort and reduces fatigue.

“Even though the M Series motor grader definitely made advancements in terms of articulation—it used to be a separate lever on the conventional systems, on an M Series it's a simple twist of the wrist—customers [asked us] to make it simpler,” Porter said. “So with a toggle switch, you can now have both—as you steer it with that joystick left and right, the hitch will follow.”

As with the Advanced Control Joysticks and Stable Blade technology, Auto Articulation is retrofittable to any existing M Series grader in the field.

The 14M3 motor grader and other “heavy metal,” along with additional Cat Connected Technologies for machine control and monitoring, will be on display at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2017 in two exhibit areas totaling 60,000 ft2. One is in North Hall, booth 10924, and the other is Gold Lot booth 4490.

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