Three different automatic control methods were presented in the demonstration. The machine was a Bobcat E85, which had been named ‘Smart Excavator’. The machine’s moving parts are equipped with sensors and a control system has been installed to control the hydraulic system. An accurate, miniaturised 3D laser scanner, which is also a result of long-term research at the University of Oulu, has been installed in the microcircuit to function as ‘an eye’.
The excavator’s control data are obtained from a measured three-dimensional terrain model and a data model created by a designer. These are refined into a machine control model and the movement paths of the machine and its bucket as required in autonomous work.
The excavator has a wide range of applications and tasks. In automatic control based on a demonstration drive, the machine performs the work as trained by people. All the movements of the machine are recorded as motion paths, which can then be repeated automatically without human intervention. In remote control, a person controls the machine remotely from a safe place. The method is appropriate for use at construction sites that, for instance, are dangerous for humans. In purely autonomous control, the movement paths of the machine are produced directly from model data.
“We are now offering a new open solution for the development of autonomous machine control to be used as an open data modelling concept in the infrastructure sector. We aim to offer an open application platform for further research and industrial cooperation in Finland and internationally,” says Director of the research project, Professor Rauno Heikkilä from the University of Oulu.
The automation of heavy equipment is currently developed actively and widely around the world. In the construction industry, the main reasons for this include improving the productivity and efficiency of construction work, minimising material losses, as well as minimising the environmental emissions and adverse effects. Autonomously operating machines are particularly suited for construction sites that are remote or dangerous to humans (such as landslide repairs, or when constructing civilisations under the surface of planets).
“One of the major research areas of the University of Oulu lies within 6G and 5G wireless communications. The next step is to digitally transform them for advanced industrial operating processes. One area of application is automated machinery. Further research and development are needed in, for example, sensor integration, application of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics,” Rauno Heikkilä continues. Electrically operated low-emission machinery is also just being introduced into the market.
Companies involved in this research project include Novatron Oy (development of machine control systems, training in data modelling in the infrastructure sector) and Technion Oy (solutions and application of automatic hydraulics control).
Training workshop in construction automation for students
Together with Oulu University of Applied Sciences and Educational Consortium OSAO, the University of Oulu organised a workshop in data modelling and automation in infrastructure construction at Ouluzone from 28 October to 1 November 2019. In the workshop, students from the educational institutions took part in building the new Speedway sports track in Ouluzone using the latest digital applications, such as digital machine control models, automatic control systems for heavy equipment, drones, cloud services for real-time control of the worksite, and so on. The construction work was completed using authentic heavy machinery.
Last updated: 6.11.2019