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Guest Post: Modern Machine Control Systems

Machine controls are used in the construction industry to monitor and accurately position excavator and backhoe booms and buckets, grader blades and more. Many different systems are available and offer 2D or 3D measuring and monitoring of the position of the bucket, boom and/or blade to different accuracies. The recorded measurements are displayed on a computerized panel mounted within the cab.

The goal of these different control systems is to allow the operator to accurately dig without ever leaving the cab. The difference in the available systems is how accurately the information is displayed, machine automation and how much training or experience is required to use the system properly.

History of Machine Control Systems

For years, companies have developed machine control systems. They use different methods of measuring and reporting including mounted sensors, lasers, and even GPS. But in the early 90s, before this modern technology was available, companies used analogue technologies to measure things like bucket depth.

Companies like Novatron began developing GPS systems in 1999. New technologies like digital screens, GPS, laser measuring tools and mounted sensors were introduced in the start of the 21st century. Companies like Moba, Excavator solutions and Novatron are now leaders in 3D machine control systems.

Modern Excavator Control Systems

Machine control systems for excavator and backhoes are the most complicated, but more accurate and simple to use. The I Dig Best advanced 3D machine control system from Excavator Solutions is a good example. It uses only sensors and valves to measure and control the boom and bucket with extreme accuracy.

The IDigBest system claims to be the world’s first true excavator machine control system because the software can actually control the bucket movement to flawlessly dig at any angle.

The system uses sensors, which take the angle measurement of the boom and compares it to a gravity reference, giving audible and visual indications of the vertical position of the bucket. The 3 dimensional measurements are then displayed via digital display inside the cab.

The computer controls use a hydraulic float control valve to control the boom, stick and bucket movement. In this way, the computer can position the bucket perfectly flat along a flat plane at any angle. This technology, known as the flat bucket technique, ensures a perfectly straight digging angle and accurate hole-depth every time.

Modern machine control systems like this can save time and increase productivity since the operator never has to leave the cab. More importantly, digging depth and slope never need to be checked for accuracy.

GPS Machine Control Systems

Some modern machine control systems use GPS to monitor and guide graders, surveying machinery, and excavating machines. The added benefit of GPS machine control systems is that all data is sent to a remote location such as an office where maintenance and performance data is also reported.

They are capable of improving the accuracy of the boom, stick, and bucket thanks to the data being sent via satellite and displayed inside the cab. This data includes the position of all machine components including bucket depth and angle.
The accuracy of GPS machine control systems as compared to laser or sensor machine control systems is still disputed. Manufacturers continue to make improvements aimed towards increasing the ease and accuracy of machine control systems.

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Jeremy R. is a machine research specialist for Machine Sales, Inc.  Visit the Machine Sales website to learn more about available machines and machine tools.


  1. Most injection molding machine controls, at least as far as newer ones are concerned, are all touch screen now a days. This makes them very intuitive and user-friendly. They are extremely easy to operate, and almost anyone could walk up to one and operate it with very minimal training. Used Molding Equipment varies, however, because the machines can be as old as twenty years or only a year old, so there is a lot of variation.

  2. Katco CQ Plant Hire April 20, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Technology has indeed improved heavy equipment handling. The GPS system is very helpful.

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