< All Posts

Understanding Machine Control: Your Ultimate Guide

December 1, 2023

What is Machine Control?

Seeking to learn more about machine control?

Welcome to your ultimate guide to understanding machine control, breaking down the what, the how, and the why.

Machine control is all about pinpoint accuracy, efficiency, and getting machines to do exactly what you need, the first time.

Put simply, machine control systems are here to make construction easier.

Thanks to GNSS, IMU sensors, and smart software, machine operators can follow plans perfectly, minimizing rework and boosting project’s efficiency.

Let’s take a closer look at how a machine control system works.

What Makes a Machine Control System: Breaking It Down

Let’s unpack what machine control systems are all about.

These systems use GNSS and 3D technology to enhance accuracy, efficiency, and consistency in machine operations.

GNSS and 3D Technology

At the forefront of modern machine control systems is the integration of GNSS- and 3D technology.

This powerful combination transforms how machinery operates, enhancing precision and efficiency.

Advantages of GNSS Technology in Machine Control:

Imagine giving operators a super-accurate navigator that provides real-time data on their machine's location and the tasks ahead, ensuring they stick precisely to the project specifications.

That's what GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) technology brings to the table.

Using signals from satellites far up in space, it provides real-time information about the exact position and orientation of construction machinery, making sure every move it makes is right on target.

This is incredibly important for precision tasks like getting the ground level (grading) or digging in the right places (excavating).

Benefits of GNSS Technology:

  • Saves Time and Money: With GNSS, machinery becomes so accurate that you can say goodbye to the days of double-checking work and fixing mistakes. This means jobs get done faster and contractors save money on labor and materials.

Straight Talk from Unicontrol: It’s like having a super-smart friend that tells your machinery exactly where to go and what to do, so every scoop of dirt is just perfect.

3D Machine Control Technology

While GNSS ensures the machinery is in the right place, 3D modeling provides the context, showing the operator how the terrain should look in real-time and guiding them through each cut and fill.

Here, complex site specifications and designs are transformed into a user-friendly virtual landscape.

It’s like giving operators a 3D map, allowing them to navigate through intricate tasks while adhering to the precise contours and dimensions of a design file.

Benefits 3D Machine Control:

  • Champion Complex Tasks: This is a game-changer, especially for complicated projects like road construction, bridgework, or large-scale excavations, helping operators master these tasks with ease.

  • Increased Operator Independence: With a detailed, visual representation of the project right at their fingertips, operators can carry out tasks more autonomously, reducing the need for constant oversight and instructions.

Straight Talk from Unicontrol

It’s like saying, "Here’s exactly where you need to dig or where to move dirt, and here's how it should look when you’re done." It helps operators know what to do without constantly asking for directions, making their job easier, more straightforward and independent.

Advantages and Applications of Machine Control Systems

The integration of GNSS and 3D modeling in machine control systems leads to a significant reduction in errors and rework, saving time and resources.

Let's dive into the core elements that make these systems tick.

Next, we're breaking down the components of a modern machine control system.

Key Components of a Machine Control System

A machine control system is an ensemble of technologies that work in synergy to revolutionize precision and efficiency in machinery operations.

Let’s break down the essential components that make up a machine control system:

IMU Sensors: The Senses of the System

IMU Sensors (Inertial Measurement Unit) are the system's eyes and ears, capturing vital movements of the machine and the position of the bucket on a machine, translating them into data.

This includes a variety of IMU sensors giving real-time data of the movement of an excavator, wheel loader, dozer or skid-steer.

Machine Control Sensor
Unicontrol3D Stick Sensor

Take an excavator for instance.

Here, the IMU sensors work hand-in-hand with the machine control system, offering operators real-time data.

Installed on the moving parts of the machine, they track and report every movement, ensuring it matches the detailed contours and dimensions laid out in the project design.

When the bucket strays off course, they catch it immediately.

This instant feedback lets operators correct the position on the fly, ensuring every move aligns with the design of the project.

GNSS Technology: The Precision Guide

While IMU sensors give machines a close-range perspective and calculate position change of a blade or bucket, GNSS technology is what allows the sensors to record this real-time data.

They create a digital map of your construction site, transforming physical spaces into precise, navigable digital terrains.

GNSS Technology:

  • Beyond mere positioning, GNSS plays a crucial role in mapping out the entire construction area in digital form, allowing for accuracy within 2 cm - about the size of a golf ball. By incorporating multiple global systems like GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou, GNSS ensures this accuracy isn't just a one-off occurrence but a consistent standard across varied environments globally.

GNSS Antennas:

  • Mounted on machinery, these antennas are the vital link, ensuring that the equipment receives pinpoint location data.

GNSS Antenna

GNSS don't just guide machinery; it creates an accurate digital representation of the construction site.

This digital mapping is fundamental for precise project execution, allowing operators to work with confidence, knowing they're achieving accuracy down to the smallest details.

Machine Hardware: Physical Precision at Work

Moving from digital precision to physical action, let’s dive into machine hardware – the real movers in this equation.

  • Real-World Execution: GNSS map it out, sensors fine-tune the details, and here’s where the machine hardware kicks in – the blades, buckets, and more. They’re the ones turning all that data into actual work.

  • Precision Partnership: Sensors handle the close-up details, ensuring each part is moved just right. GNSS provide the big-picture guidance. This combo means machinery operates with laser-sharp precision, exactly as the project design demands.

  • Guided to Perfection: The control system melds GNSS and sensor data, guiding machine operators to execute tasks with pinpoint accuracy. Operators get real-time feedback and visuals, enhancing their control and making every action count.

This is where technology meets hands-on execution.

Guided by the precision of GNSS technology and IMU sensors, the machine performs the physical work on a construction site.

The machine control system acts as an advanced guidance system, enhancing the operator's control and ensuring accuracy and efficiency.

Display Unit: Construction Made Simple

So, we have discussed how GNSS technology and IMU sensors collect precise data and how the machine hardware perform the work.

But where does the machine operator follow all this information and receive feedback?

The display unit is where it all clicks.

It takes complex 3D models, precise GNSS data, and real machine moves, turning them into easy visuals for the operator.

Here you can see how a display unit can look:

Unicontrol3D Machine Control Interface

And here are 3 key reasons why it plays a crucial role:

  • 3D and GNSS Combined: Operators see a live map on the display – the 3D plan and GNSS location plus real-time data from the IMU sensors. It shows exactly where to be and what to do, turning complex data into straightforward action.

  • Task-Specific Guidance: The display zeroes in on specific tasks, guiding operators on where and how to work. With a set of intuitive features, machine operators can tailor the system to support them in various tasks.

  • Machine Actions Visualized: Every action taken by the machinery is mirrored on the screen, ensuring it matches the project. It’s real-time feedback, ensuring accuracy.

Modern display units are designed to be intuitive and user-friendly, ensuring that operators can easily interpret the data and visuals provided.

This ease of use is crucial, as it ensures that operators of all skill levels can effectively use the machine control system.

Next, we explore communication systems, the backbone that keeps the office, machines and personel in perfect harmony, improving collaboration on-site.

Communication Systems: Improving On-Site Collaboration

Communication systems are the nerve center of machine control, syncing every part of a project, from the office to the field.

Remote Monitoring and Management: With communication systems, machine operators and site managers can remotely monitor and project manage machinery.

For example, solutions like UnicontrolCloud enable the transmission of design files and crucial project data directly to machinery on-site, ensuring that operators always have access to the latest information.

Over-the-Air Support: Communication systems enable support teams to remotely access machine diagnostics and provide assistance. This ensures that any issues can be resolved quickly, minimizing downtime and keeping the project on track.

Open Data-flow: Modern construction sites often involve a variety of different machine control solutions.

Some communication systems ensure that different systems can work together seamlessly.

For example, UnicontrolCloud supports integration with platforms like Infrakit, ensuring that all machines, regardless of the control software, can cooperate and share data.

Machine Control: Straight Talk From Unicontrol

Think of a machine control system as a smart assistant for construction work. It uses special feelers (sensors) to understand how parts of a big machine, like an excavator, are moving.

It then uses satellite navigation (like a super-accurate GPS) to know exactly where the machine is and where it needs to go.

With this information, the system guides the machine operator to use the working parts (like a shovel or a blade) to do tasks more precisely, just like following a map.

The operator of the machine can see all this information on a screen, making sure everything is going right.

Plus, the system can talk to other machines and to people in the office, making sure everyone is working together perfectly.

Pretty neat, right?

Well. Let’s look at a use case for machine control and how it is used by business owners and machine operators.

In Construction: The Transformative Impact of Machine Control

Machine control helps machine operators, turning challenging tasks into straightforward operations.

From bulldozers to excavators, machine control systems has shifted how tasks are approached and executed.

Let’s take a look at how machine control can be used for a specific task directly on-site

Machine Control in Action: Function Use Case

Surface Generator

With machine control, machine operators have a variety of functions to support them in their tasks.

Take surface from points for instance.

This allows machine operators to create a surface from existing points in easily transferred design files, previously logged points or points set manually with the bucket or a GPS Rover.

When these points have been set, the machine control system can either generate triangles between the points automatically or the machine operator can do it manually, as well as adjusting the height of the points.

Here you can see how it looks in the machine control system.

Unicontrol Machine Control

Simply put, the advantadge of this function is that machine operators can work more autonomously, creating their own on-site design and minimizing time spent waiting for the assistance of surveyors.

With machine control, operators have a versatile set of features right at their fingertips, making construction work smoother, more precise, and efficient.

But what are the benefits of machine control?

Take a look at the next section to explore how it can benefit your business.

Benefits of Implementing Machine Control

1. Increased Accuracy:

Machine control systems transform construction precision. They take complex designs and turn them into exact instructions for machinery. Every dig, grade, and level matches the plan perfectly.

Errors drop, rework disappears, saving time and labor.

2. Time Savings:

These systems are time-saving heroes. Real-time data mean machines work smarter and faster, cutting down project time significantly.

Operators get the job done quicker, moving from one task to the next with no delays for manual checks.

3. Better Resource Management:

Machine control is all about smart resource management. It ensures machinery and materials are used to their fullest, slashing waste and costs.

Efficient, precise project execution means you use exactly what you need – no more, no less.

4. Enhanced Operator Efficiency:

Machine control systems level the playing field, empowering operators of all experience levels to perform at their best.

It acts as a digital co-pilot, providing data and visuals that boost confidence, efficiency and autonomy of machine operators.

Some machine control solutions offer more advanced solutions for end-users, but as the industry evolves, more and more manufacturers adopts a customer-centric focus, prioritizing adaptability over advanced technology.

5. Remote Management and Quality Assurance:

In today’s connected world, the ability to monitor and manage projects from the office is crucial.

  • Remote Management: Command projects without setting foot on-site. Transfer design files, adjust plans, and manage operations, all from your desk.

  • Quality Assurance: Work with real-time as-built data to ensure top-notch quality. This means less guesswork, fewer errors, and a solid assurance that what's being built matches the plan perfectly.

Here, you can hear from Daniel talking about how machine control has helped them manage their projects.

The Benefits of Machine Control: Put SIMPLY

Machine control is transforming construction with efficiency and precision.

Here's a straightforward breakdown:

  1. Precision in Every Task: It enables machine operators to steer machinery accurately, drastically cutting down on redoing work.

  1. Saves Time: Quicker task completion, with less manual measuring and fewer errors.

  1. Optimizes Resources: Makes the most of machinery and manpower, reducing waste.

  1. User-Friendly for All Operators: Gives clear, real-time guidance, making it easier for operators of all skill levels.

  1. Remote Project Oversight: Allows managers to monitor and adjust operations remotely, ensuring smooth project progression.

Machine Control's Future: Simplicity and Automation

Simpler Interfaces: Easy for All Operators

Future machine control is all about user-friendliness. Gone are days of exhausting training hours and complex systems that confuse more than help.

  • Intuitive Design: These systems are evolving to be straightforward, easy for anyone to use, no matter their tech skills.

  • Quick Learning: They’re built so even beginners can get the hang of it fast, making advanced machine control more widespread.

"Making machine control systems more user-friendly and accessible has always been a top priority for us. We believe that every operator, regardless of their experience or technical background, should have the opportunity to benefit from the precision and efficiency that machine control technology offers.” Martin Kirkmand, R&D Manager at Unicontrol

This user-centric design philosophy ensures that even operators with minimal experience in machine control can quickly adapt and start reaping the benefits of the system.

Increased Automation: Paving the Way for Efficiency and Safety

The next for machine control is the integration of increased automation.

We are seeing a shift towards machinery that can operate semi-autonomously or even autonomously, guided by sophisticated machine control systems.

  • Self-Operating Machinery: We're moving towards machines that work independently, guided by advanced controls.

  • Higher Efficiency, Lower Risk: These machines can handle complex tasks without tiring, reducing the need for constant human input, and ramping up efficiency and safety.

Here, you can explore how machine control automation works for dozers or how machine control might affect the future of construction.

Alright, heavy stuff right? Let’s wrap it up.

Wrapping Up: Machine Control Made Simple

Here's the deal with machine control in construction: it's changing big time. It used to be all about big companies with deep pockets and tech experts. Not anymore.

Now, it's all about making machine control easy and available for every company.

These new systems are becoming simpler to get the hang of, so machine operators and contractors can start doing top-notch work from day one.

In short, machine control isn't just for the few with lots of resources; it's for everyone.

Thinking about what machine control could do for your projects?

Step Into the Future with Unicontrol3D

Unicontrol3D is shaking things up at construction sites all over. This system is all about making your job easier, more precise, and way more efficient.

It's a game changer for contractors and machine operators – and it could be for you, too.

Dive into the future of construction with Unicontrol3D – it's waiting to take your projects to the next level.

Contact us here.

Did you find this guide helpful?

Feel free to share it with your fellow earthmovers.

Frequently Asked Questions about Machine Control

What is the meaning of machine control?

Machine control refers to the use of technology and software to guide and automate the operations of construction machinery. This technology enables machine operators to use machines such as bulldozers, excavators, wheel loaders and skid-steer to follow a predefined design surface, ensuring precision and accuracy in construction tasks.

What is a machine control system?

A machinery control system is an integrated system that combines hardware and software to control and monitor the operations of machines. This system ensures that machinery operates according to predefined parameters, enhancing efficiency, accuracy, and safety on the job site.

Why use machine control?

Using machine control on construction sites offers numerous benefits, including increased accuracy, reduced rework, and improved efficiency. It enables operators to complete tasks more quickly and with greater precision, ultimately saving time and resources. Additionally, machine control enhances safety by providing operators with clear guidance and reducing the need for manual grade checking.

What is machine control automation?

Machine control automation refers to the use of automated systems to control the operations of construction machinery. This technology enables machinery to operate with minimal human intervention, following predefined plans and specifications. Machine control automation enhances the accuracy and efficiency of construction tasks, while also reducing the potential for human error.