Bulldozers: Balancing high performance with ease of operation
By Jenny Lescohier17 August 2023
Advancing tech in today’s dozers makes it possible to get more done with less, writes Jenny Lescohier.
Construction job sites require dozers of all sizes to move material or finish grading. Today, equipment owners can choose and customise their dozers to accommodate any job requirements.
For its part, Caterpillar offers a range of dozers from the small D2 to the mining D11. Machines come with a wide selection of undercarriage, drive train and blade configurations.
Small Cat dozers (models D2-D3) are made to be quick in moving from site to site. They now feature Cat Grade technology to increase their value and utility on the job. Medium Cat dozers (models D4-D8) include factory-integrated Cat Grade technology and a choice in powertrain and dozer blade configurations that allows customers to tailor the machine to the application.
Large Cat dozers (models D9-D11) also feature elevated sprockets to increase productivity, simplify maintenance, reduce downtime and raise final drives and powertrain components out of the work environment. These machines also offer Cat Grade technology, including Cat Grade 3D, available from the factory on the D9 and the new D10.
New enhancements for bulldozers
This year at ConExpo, Las Vegas, US, Case Construction Equipment announced a wave of new enhancements for its 650M through 850M dozers, which make up three of the company’s family of six dozer models.
Case’s 750M and 850M dozers have a new electrohydraulic control valve that allows the operator to set blade control settings to smooth, moderate or aggressive in order to better dial the machine into the preferences of the operator, while simultaneously reducing operator fatigue.
Case Universal Machine Control is now available with these machines, which allows them to be outfitted with machine control solutions from any of the major suppliers of precision construction technology.
Each of these dozers is also available with factory-fit solutions from Leica Geosystems that simplify the ordering and setup process, just like for the larger dozers.
Another major OEM in this sector, John Deere, has eight dozer models, ranging from 71 to 350 horsepower. It recently released its next generation of small dozers, including the 450, 550 and 650 P-Tier models. They feature EZ Grade technology that is standard on all models with electro-hydraulic (EH) controls.
Aside from EZ Grade, which is included as part of the EH control option, Slope Control can be added to any machine with EZ Grade and allows operators to automate blade movements to a specific cross slope and/or mainfall slope.
“The intent isn’t to automate all the blade movements for the operator, but instead ensure the blade keeps up with sudden changes in the machine’s attitude, so the blade does not gouge or ruin a smooth grade,” said Matt Goedert, solutions marketing manager, dozers & motor graders, John Deere.
“The operator has full control of the blade’s elevation and slope. EZ Grade also gives operators a digital slope reference on the touchscreen display to help operators manually carry out slopes.”
Part of LiuGong Machinery, Dressta’s five dozer choices include the new TD-16N, a full hydrostatic dozer designed to provide enhanced control and power.
“The TD-16N also offers an unparalleled view around the cab, the blade, the ripper and the tracks,” said Carlos Martinez, product manager, road machinery, LiuGong North America, noting, “The new TD-15M and TD-25M are the most powerful dozers in their segment for ripping or pushing application.”
He said both machines are operator-focused, creating less fatigue with lower operating costs. “These dozers provide class-leading ripping and pushing in their segment, plus enhanced cabs, helping operators maximise their time in the cockpit,” Martinez said. He added that the TD-16N model features a 360-degree view and new rear cooling design.
Balance of power and economy
Develon recently entered the dozer scene in North America with two models – the DD100 and DD130. Both fit into the 140hp and less size class, which the company said accounts for about 45% of the dozer market.
The DD100 is a 10-metric-ton machine and the DD130 is in the 13-metric-ton size class. Develon (formerly Doosan) offers a general-purpose machine and a low-ground-pressure version with a wider grouser trackpad and a little wider blade in both sizes.
Develon said its dozers are a bit heavier than competitive units because customers have indicated they want more pushing power in those size classes.
As a result, Develon dozers have slightly more engine horsepower comparatively. The goal is to give them increased tractive effort, allowing for greater productivity.
Today’s dozers are not all about performance, however. OEMs are keeping their eyes on balancing pushing power with equally important considerations such as fuel economy, ease of
operation and simple maintenance.
“Our M Series dozers take the hassle out of maintenance with best-in-class machine access via four large, hinged access doors. In addition, service access is easy because no tools are required,” said Nicola D’Arpino, vice president, construction product portfolio strategy, Case Construction Equipment.
“This series is also designed with visibility in mind, with an undercarriage built to improve visibility, giving operators clear sight to the edge of the blade.”
D’Arpino said non-DEF solutions are in-place on the 650 and 750, and 850, while its larger models use an SCR solution that maximises efficiency. In markets where Tier 2 emissions are acceptable, the 1150, 1650 and 2050 offer that solution.
“These dozers have all been enhanced with newly rerouted hydraulics to improve reliability and minimize leaks, and an updated electrical system and routing with a newly braided harness that increases overall reliability,” said D’Arpino.
“Since electrohydraulic (EH) controls are now standard on the new 750M and 850M, adding an EH valve is no longer required, reducing the total cost of machine control systems.”
In addition, CoPilot 1D, 2D Single Mast Laser Kit and 3D Dual Mast GNSS Leica Geosystems are now available from the factory for 750-2050M, allowing for automatic blade control. “We also offer a universal ready kit option if you would like to use a different brand of machine control,” added D’Arpino.
Deere’s dozers have been designed to give operators more comfort so they can be more productive. “The updated cab is 14% larger,” noted Goedert. “With the increased size, glass area has also been increased to provide additional visibility. This space provides easier ingress and egress, but also provides more storage room.
“The top of the hood line has been lowered and straightened significantly, giving operators greater visibility of the front of the machine, in addition to the already clear visibility of the blade corners. Another notable improvement to the operator’s environment is the noise levels. The updated cab is noticeably quieter to lessen fatigue,” Goedert added.
What’s new in dozer tech?
Modern construction equipment mostly looks a lot like it always has, but if you look under the hood, it’s obvious today’s machines have evolved. There’s a whole lot of sophistication in the latest models.
In general, many tasks can now be automated. This not only can ensure a higher-quality result in the work, it also serves to make machines easier to operate and more accessible to a wider variety of operating skills.
An example is Cat Steer Assist for Dozers, which is a new technology available for the Cat D5, D6, D6 XE and D7 models. It automates multiple steering functions to help make operation easier so operators of varied experience levels can be more productive.
Steer Assist offers automatic dozer steering, track steering with light and heavy loads and blade tilt steering with heavy loads. With this feature, dozers can latch onto and follow guidance lines in a site design plan. Without guidance lines, the dozer automatically makes small adjustments to maintain straight travel.
Steer Assist 3D, which requires Cat Grade with 3D, automatically follows guidance lines from site design plans (or Infield designs) under light load or heavy load. It more accurately cuts or spreads material with precise steering to an edge, toe, crown, etc. and reduces the number of passes with precise pass-to-pass overlap.
It’s also designed to increase heavy dozing productivity by using AutoCarry, Traction Control, Cat Grade with 3D, and Steer Assist 3D using blade tilt steering, especially for less experienced operators.
For the first time on John Deere dozers, EZ Grade technology is standard on all small dozers with electro-hydraulic (EH) controls. “Customers express the importance of making it as easy as possible to operate and grade on these small dozers,” said Goedert.
“EZ grade technology is always monitoring how the operator is controlling the blade and how the machine is responding. This technology makes slight blade corrections in the background to achieve smooth grades while minimizing operator interference. This enables all operators to be more productive, faster, and reduces fatigue.”
Alternative power choices for bulldozers
With all the focus lately going to alternative power sources for earthmoving equipment, what does this mean for dozers? In short, efforts are being made to find new solutions.
At ConExpo 2023 John Deere displayed its new 850 X-Tier dozer with E-Drive technology. This uses a 9.0L diesel engine that powers a generator, that generates electricity, that powers two electric motors.
“This technology has proven itself over the years on our 944 wheel loader and we are excited to carry it over to our dozer product line,” Goedert said. “Customers can expect large efficiency gains from this diesel-electric technology, not only from fuel savings but also in increased productivity.
“Even though this machine is not yet in production today, we have several machines accumulating hours and collecting customer feedback. Every operator that has experienced the 850 X has noted the smoothness and increased pushing power it enables.”
Along with the fuel and productivity benefits, the 850 X also gives owners a reason to re-evaluate their ownership period as the hydrostatic components are replaced by electric drive components with longer run life.
Another alternative powered example is the Cat D6 XE, the world’s first high drive Electric Drive dozer. The OEM says it offers up to 35% better fuel efficiency and increased agility compared to the previous 3-speed model D6T. Constant power to the ground, continuous push and greater manoeuvrability mean faster cycle times, making Electric Drive a solid choice for productivity and fuel efficiency.
Productivity and efficiency are the hallmarks of today’s dozers. The latest machines are packed with the latest technology to ensure they can most push and grade more effectively than ever before.