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Former Helicopter Pilot Gets Up to Speed With MC2 Dozer

Thu September 24, 2009 - West Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Spartakoss Valverdini is a retired Marine colonel and a former Apache helicopter pilot.

He likes speed…the faster, the better.

Speed is not what he expects when working as a finish blade operator in the construction industry. But speed is what he experienced on a John Deere 750J dozer during a recent hands-on demonstration of the fastest machine control technology on the market today.

Topcon Positioning Systems’ (TPS) 3D-MC2 technology, according to published information and accounts from end-users, allows a dozer operator to go “twice as fast with twice the accuracy” of a regular 3D-GPS system, and four to five times as fast as a dozer without any machine control system.

Valverdini, a finish blade operator versed in the use of laser grade control, GPS and ATS systems, and a member of the Operating Engineers Union, said, “3D-MC2 allows you to go fast all right. But that’s just part of the job. More importantly, it gives you the smooth, accurate, finish grade of a grader…with a dozer. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

After minimal instructions and a couple of passes on a football field-size test site near the company’s headquarters in Livermore, Calif., John Dice, TPS senior training manager, put Valverdini behind the joystick controls of the dozer.

Valverdina made a slow pass in manual, then a return pass at about the same speed, still in manual control. Grading at about 1.8 to 2 mph., his passes were “acceptable,” he later said.

Engaging the 3D-MC2 system, his third and fourth passes were at about 4 mph. The cuts were definitely smoother…finish grade quality.

The fifth pass had Valverdini pushing the Deere dozer wide open, between 6 and 7 mph. The cut, trimmed on both sides by the dozer tracks was ultra-smooth. A level demonstration showed it was “on bubble.”

“That was something,” Valverdini said. “I have read about 3D-MC2 technology, and listened to what John Dice said. But until you actually run it, it does not compute what he can actually do.”

He admitted that is was “hard to jump the dozer up as fast as I finally did. Operators are not used to doing that. We are used to controlling the dozer, not the dozer controlling the cut regardless of the speed.”

Dice complimented Valverdini’s performance, saying, “He’s a good operator at any speed. But just because he’s a good operator, he didn’t close his mind to the possibilities of what 3D-MC2 can do. If you accept the premise this machine can make you more productive, thus saving time and money, it’s a natural progression from running with no machine control system, or even a GPS-only system, to running with 3D-MC2.”

With normal GPS machine control having 10 and 20 grade corrections per second, it’s “hard to believe you can jump from that to 100 corrections per second,” Valverdini said. “But all you have to do is make a couple of passes, and look at the finish grade you get at that speed and it makes you a believer in a hurry.”

To think, he said, “that you can use one dozer to do the work of two, and do finish grade work equal to that of a grader…is unbelievable.”

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