With growing demand for grade-control systems on its dozers, John Deere has launched the 700K Smart Dozer, which features an integrated 3D grade-control system from Topcon Positioning Systems, eliminating the relatively fragile masts that most systems are mounted on.

“Aftermarket systems today have to have a mast. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Topcon, Trimble, Leica, you've got a mast on the front. They got cables that are dangling from the sensor, the antenna,” says Williiam Bauman, an instructor with Deere’s WorkSight division. “We want to get rid of that mast, we want to get rid of the cables and integrate this into the dozer.”

The new version of the 700K dozer uses a Topcon 3D MC2 grade-control system, and features two inertial measurement units (IMUs), with one mounted on the back of the blade and one beneath the cab alongside the frame rail. Both are encased in steel boxes secured with bolts, with the wired connections also shielded from the environment.

Since the distance between the two IMU’s is already known and changes can be calculated based on blade hydraulics and the machine’s geometry, the location of the blade relative to the body can be constantly updated. “Those IMUs are checking their locations 100 times a second, so we can have accurate readings on the blades roll, pitch and yaw, says Bauman.” Common grade profiles are preloaded into the cab-mounted control system, and it takes roughly 30 minutes to calibrate the dozer before use, according to Deere.

Two GPS antennas, mounted on the front and back of the cab’s roof, provide positioning updates. The satellite board and radio board of what would be a normal Topcon base station have been moved to an easily accessible panel on the side of the cab. “Back when I was a contractor, the worst thing about these grade-control systems was dealing with all the cables and removing the mast at the end of the day,” says Bauman. “These machines are moving and working all day, and the bushings get worn out on aftermarket masts. Another thing is the serviceability of this dozer. It’s dangerous getting up on the blade at the end of every day to take down an aftermarket unit. Standing up there holding a $3,500 sensor in your hand, that’s not a good feeling.”

The 700K itself fits into the 15-ton dozer class and is powered by a 130-hp Tier 4 Final engine. The dozer has telematics support through Deere’s JDLink system, which can log performance data and record during which periods the 3D grade-controls were engaged. Grade profiles are loaded into the machine via a USB port in the cab, and as-built, auto-topo maps can be downloaded afterwards.