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3D terrain mapping by ITK Engineering detects people and objects in rough terrain and alerts the operator to potential hazards. (ITK Engineering)

Going digital & electric @ bauma 2019

Digitalization and electrification are dominant themes in the equipment and technology revealed at this year’s largest trade show for construction and mining.

Digitalization, efficiency and sustainability are three megatrends that off-highway OEMs and suppliers touted this month at the triennial bauma trade fair in Munich, when they revealed their technology-laden machines and the intelligent systems that help make them smarter, cleaner and safer. Particular focal areas for many of these companies include electric mobility, telematics and networked construction sites, and increasingly autonomous operation.

Some construction machines are already equipped with a range of sensors and communication interfaces that provide comprehensive data on aspects like job performance, location and fuel consumption. While entire fleets can be managed by telematics, many companies still struggle with how to implement digital technologies and services.

In 2018, bauma organizer Messe München conducted a survey of nearly 10,000 industry professionals to gauge current and future trends within the construction and mining industries. This “industry barometer” revealed that digitalization and connected construction sites are two of the “hottest topics” in the industry, behind only sustainability/energy efficiency. Even so, 35% of respondents believe their investments into the digitalization of their business processes is too low.

Digital networking of vehicles and machines (connected sites, telematics) and digital networking of machines and systems in production (Industry 4.0) were tied, at 26%, for the most popular research fields, trailing only development or use of vehicles/machines with electric drives, at 32%. However, only 8% of respondents said digital networking is already part of their standard operations; 12% claim to have initial experiments and test products in these areas.

“Contractors need open systems which we do not have yet,” said Joachim Schmid, Managing Director for the construction- and mining-machinery industries at German engineering association VDMA, which is a partner of Messe München for bauma. “To have effective digitalization, we’ll need standards. Machines will have to talk to each other and send data in a standardized and meaningful way, because definitely on a construction site you’ll have machines from various manufacturers—this is the real challenge we have.”

Some experts say it’s possible to increase overall efficiency by 50% if the focus is on the whole process rather than improving the efficiency of individual machines, according to Schmid. “When machines start talking to each other, you’ll be much more efficient,” he said.

Improving process and safety

Process efficiency is at the core of Continental’s new ContiLogger consultancy concept, which uses tire and vehicle telemetry to help optimize route management and coordinate tire use at construction sites and quarries. Debuting at bauma, the concept uses a data logger to measure speed, distance, location, lateral forces, elevation change, road grade, cycle downtime and the pressure and temperature of the tires in real-life applications. The data collected undergoes either “one-off analysis” by the Continental field engineer or can be continuously captured by the user as a remote service to identify whether a tire is being overloaded or underused, for example, or to adapt operational processes so that overall productivity is increased. 

“This is a holistic concept because it involves evaluating the application as a whole,” said Enno Straten, Head of Continental Commercial Specialty Tires, in a product announcement. “We see this as extremely important in the OTR earthmoving business, where conditions are exceptionally harsh and the high cost of replacing tires means that proper tire servicing and consulting are essential.”

Predictive maintenance is often a major driver to implement IoT (Internet of Things) solutions that help make sense of the vast amounts of data being collected from machines and worksites. At bauma, ORBCOMM highlighted offerings that help companies to track, control and monitor their stationary and mobile systems via a choice of satellite and cellular connectivity, as well as enable predictive maintenance by simultaneously recording and evaluating a larger number of data points.

The supplier’s FleetEdge telematics solution supports the AEMP 2.0/ISO-15143-3 telematics standard (Association of Equipment Management Professionals), which replaces the AEMP 1.0 standard that only maps the four data points of plant identification, location, operating hours/kilometers and fuel consumption within mixed fleets.

With FleetEdge’s new version that now captures and processes 19 specific data points and numerous error codes, such as engine temperature, fuel level, idle times and average power shares, mixed fleets can more easily manage equipment, seeing the same information from all OEMs that support AEMP 2.0. The combination of telematics data with logistics or operating data offers further process optimization possibilities, for example through balanced machine utilization planning or adapted deployment of driving or technical personnel, according to Sue Rutherford, VP of marketing at ORBCOMM.

Digital solutions also play a key role in improving the safety of jobsites. Software and system developer ITK Engineering showcased its 3D terrain mapping application that employs sensors to detect people and objects on terrain where visibility is poor. The camera-based assistance system is “vendor-agnostic,” integrating into mobile machinery of different manufacturers.

A demonstrator at bauma showed how digital stereo camera systems paired with specially developed algorithms can locate objects with precision in three dimensions, distinguishing between different objects such as humans, animals, special machinery attachments, or piles of material.

Maneuvering jobsites safely is aided by Continental’s second-generation ProViu 360 surround view system, which will provide images in HD resolution when it becomes available in 2020. Four-megapixel cameras and a further-developed control unit increase resolution by a factor of three compared to the first-gen system, the supplier claims. In addition to delivering bird’s-eye images, the new generation of ProViu 360 can combine additional sensor information from the vehicle with the camera images and analyze its own video information.

A plethora of other digital systems that improve operational efficiencies and worksite safety from suppliers like Leica, Topcon, Trimble, Stoneridge-Orlaco, PRECO Electronics, and Hella were found scattered about the Munich fairgrounds.

Electric future in focus

The bauma industry barometer revealed that development of vehicles/machines with electric drives was the top research field for survey respondents from North and South America as well as Europe. (It was second for Asia, behind the development of autonomous or remote-controlled vehicles/machines.) Electric drives are already part of standard operations for 10% of those surveyed, and 13% have initial experiments or test products under way.

OEMs like Volvo Construction Equipment are more than willing to satisfy customers’ growing demand for electric machines. The company recently announced that it would commit to electric power for its compact machine range, promising Volvo-branded compact excavators and compact wheel loaders in 2020. The first two hydraulic-electric machines were unveiled at bauma, followed by a staged market-by-market introduction and ramp up in 2020.

Among the 20 new machines Caterpillar introduced at bauma, a few featured electric drive, including the D6 XE high-drive electric drive dozer that offers up to 35% better fuel efficiency than its D6T predecessor. Cat promises a payback of less than two years for the additional investment. Also in Munich was the company’s first diesel/electric-drive loader, the 988K XE, employing a switched-reluctance drive motor, generator, and inverter, coupled with a mechanical gearbox and axles.

Another debut from Cat is a concept compact wheel loader, the zero-emission 906, powered by a lithium-ion battery with an electric drivetrain.

Engine manufacturers were also keen to share their latest electric drivetrain technology. John Deere Power Systems (JDPS) touted the more than 1 million operating hours in the field logged by Deere’s 644K and 944K hybrid wheel loaders, introduced in 2013 and 2015, respectively. JDPS collaborated with John Deere Electronic Solutions to design and implement fully integrated electric drivetrain systems first introduced at bauma 2016.

“We are working closely with our OEM customers to understand their application needs,” said Darren Almond, drivetrain product planning manager for JDPS, in a release announcing the milestone. He noted that offering integrated solutions that address the interfaces between the electrical generator and/or motors, power electronics, and mechanical interfaces will be vital to the growth of this emerging market.

Cummins featured an electric mini excavator prototype at bauma that was developed in partnership with Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE). The 3.5-ton excavator contains eight BM4.4E modules connected in a series to provide a total energy of 35.2 kWh. Mounted near the base of the excavator, the Cummins-designed and built battery modules utilize Li-ion technology and proprietary control technology to maintain the battery state-of-charge. The machine is designed to work a full shift and charge in under 3 hours.

“HCE anticipates mini excavators, which operate in urban workplaces close to residential areas, will be a prime candidate to electrify to meet zero-emission and low noise requirements in the near future,” said D. S. Kim, HCE Senior Executive Vice President & CTO, in a statement.

Perkins has invested in hybrid engine R&D projects for many years, and bauma 2019 saw the introduction of three different hybrid power technologies: a hybrid-electric, hybrid-mechanical and hybrid-hydraulic solutions.

“For construction machines, it’s not sufficient to simply carry over hybrid or electric technologies from other sectors such as truck, automobiles or marine,” said Matt Coleman, Perkins Product Director, in a release. “The duty cycles, operating conditions and packaging constraints for off-highway machines drive the need for specific configurations that are highly customized to the individual application.”

And Kubota’s BUEE (Business Unit Engine Europe) presented a further-developed version of the micro-hybrid prototype engine it first showcased at Intermat 2018.

“We do not believe that the future belongs to any one power source or technology,” said Daniel Grant, Marketing Manager, KHE BUEE, in a statement. “The micro-hybrid, for example, is a potential response not to a demand for electrification, but rather the desire for greater energy efficiency which can lead to downsizing. We are hearing more and more from clients who want both regulation compliance and increased efficiency with no diminution of performance.”

Check out and the June issue of Truck & Off-Highway Engineering for more in-depth coverage of these and other technologies and machines that made waves in Munich.

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