Laser-Grader Provides More Precision, Maneuverability For Indoor Projects

Tue June 14, 2005 - National Edition
Tom Stoebenau

When the job is indoors, a grading project can be a daunting, if not impossible task. Most graders are too large to fit into plans for indoor jobs. Without the mini-grader, most of these jobs had to be done by hand, which could be problematic, especially in large-scale jobs.

The laser-grader, manufactured by Laser-Grader, is designed to provide the power of a full-size grader with the maneuverability and the clearance that a smaller grader might provide.

Leo Paradis, the machine’s inventor, specializes in grading inside buildings and other tight spots, so it wasn’t hard for him to see a need for a smaller grader.

“I was working on a school in Massachusetts. I was grading the auditorium and they wanted it done perfectly. I worked for three days on what was probably a 1,000-square-foot area. It was rough. Then I came up with the idea then and there. Give me a small machine that can go right in there,” said Paradis.

It took him several years to develop the mini-grader, scrapping the project to start over several times.

“The thing was knowing what size machine I needed and trying to get it balanced just right so it didn’t lose traction. I decided to put the engine in the back and it took off. It was one of those things that came together real quick,” said Paradis.

In 1982, the mini-grader was first put to work at Portsmouth, NH, at what was then the new Fox Run Mall. In 1983, the laser guidance system was added, increasing the accuracy of the machine.

Laser-Grader Manufacturing was bought one year ago by the P. Ronci Machine Company, with Phil Cerrone as its president. The company manufactures Ronci centrifugical coaters and the infrastructure for building the laser-grader already existed.

“The machine was so well liked that Leo got in the business of manufacturing them, but he could only finish one a year in his free time,” said Cerrone.

“Leo couldn’t make and meet the demand for the machine. We make industrial paint machines, and the manufacturing was the same for both machines, so I decided to start building the grader,” said Cerrone.

The laser-grader uses a SpectraPhysics ELI electronic level from Trimble, a GPS manufacturer. The level provides an electronic signal, which is picked up by a target sensor mounted on the grader’s moldboard. A remote display is set above the grader’s hydraulic controls and wired to the target sensor. This display determines whether the blade is too high, too low, or on target for the predetermined grade.

The laser-grader’s guidance system performs well when an exact grade is necessary. When working with material sizes of .75 in. (1.9 cm) or smaller, the machine can maintain a grade to within .125 in. (.3 cm), as far as 1,000 ft. (304.8 m) from the transit. The system automatically adjusts the moldboard up to eight times per second.

In grading projects taking place on natural turf, it’s important that the area to be graded is the only area disrupted, and the relatively small size of the laser-grader aids in keeping the surrounding areas safe from damage. Today’s professional athletic fields demand precise specifications, and the laser-grader’s low weight can provide them without the uneven compaction created by heavier equipment, according to the company.

The laser-grader measures 11 ft. 6 in. long, 4 ft. wide, and 7 ft. 2 in. high (3.5 by 1.2 by 2.2 m), and comes with a 6-ft. (1.8 m) moldboard and 5-ft. (1.5 m) front pusher blade. It fits through a 5-ft. (1.5 m) doorway, but can fine-grade a gravel sub-grade at 25,000 sq. ft. (7,620 sq. m) a day. In open areas, the laser-grader can grade more than 50,000 sq. ft. (15,240 sq. m) in a day.

Its hydrostatic transmission and six-wheel drive system combine for higher pushing power at slower travel speeds, making the laser-grader suited for close grading above columns, footings and utility roughs.

Some of jobs done with a laser-grader include the Palisades ice skating rink in Nyack, NY, where the grader had to be lifted 85 ft. (25.9 m) up to the rink, which was on the fourth floor of the mall, the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, and Harvard University’s lacrosse field, tennis court and ice rink. The most famous job a laser-grader has done is Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots.

For more information, call 401/231-8676, or visit CEG