Grade-Control Systems Allow Flexible Application

By Walt Moore, Senior Editor | September 28, 2010

GCS600 on motor grader
The GCS600 system on this motor grader provides cross-slope and elevation control, but the user can initially install the lower-cost GCS500 system for cross-slope control, then upgrade to the more capable system as need dictates.

At the heart of its new GCS family of next-generation grade-control systems, says Trimble, is the capability to provide upgrade options. That capability gives earthmoving contractors the flexibility to select an economical system that meets today's needs, then to cost-effectively build on that system as requirements evolve.

The GCS family has the industry-standard Controller Area Network (CAN) as its backbone. Because the CAN environment provides plug-and-play flexibility, a single-sensor system, such as the GCS300, for example, can provide low-cost entry into the world of grade control. But as the contractor's needs expand, this relatively simple system can be upgraded to a dual-sensor GCS400 system, or to the full 3D GCS900 system. In all, the new GCS family has five distinct systems:

GCS300-Single-Elevation Control

The GCS300 grade-control system uses the new Trimble LR410 laser receiver to control the lift of the machine's blade. Designed primarily for use on crawler dozers, the system is intended for finish-grading work on smaller construction projects, such as housing pads, small building sites, tennis courts and sports fields. This system, says Trimble, is the low-cost entry into grade-control systems.

GCS400-Dual-Elevation Control

The GCS400 system employs either two Trimble LR410 laser receivers, or one LR410 and the new Trimble AS400 angle slope sensor, to control both the lift and tilt of the machine's blade. Again, this system is designed primarily for use on dozers, and it provides the capacity, says Trimble, to work effectively on medium-to-large housing pads and commercial building sites, plus road construction.

GCS500-Cross Slope Control

Designed for use on motor graders, the GCS500 grade-control system uses a variety of sensors to calculate the cross-slope of the blade. Providing a high degree of flexibility, the GCS500 has up to 100 percent slope capability, making the system ideal, says Trimble, for a wide range of applications, including cutting road slopes, ditches and embankments. The system has further application for such chores as road maintenance and sports-field construction.

GCS600-Cross Slope and Elevation Control

Designed for use on motor graders performing fine-grade work, the GCS600 system uses a variety of sensors to calculate the cross slope of either side of the blade. This system, additionally, uses one or two LR410 laser receivers or an ST300 sonic tracer to provide elevation control. When using the sonic tracer, the system allows for string-line and curb-and-gutter tracing. Contractors can purchase the GCS600, says the company, or start with the GCS500 and later upgrade to the GCS600.

GCS900-Full 3D Control

The GCS900 is a full 3D control system that places the site plan—design surfaces, grades and alignments—inside the cab. The system uses Trimble's dual-antenna design to calculate the position of each end of the blade for no-stake grading. The GCS900 features Trimble's new MS980 Smart Antenna, a fully integrated GPS receiver and antenna. This system is aimed at a wide range of earthmoving applications, and the contractor can buy the GCS900 or, if it makes more economic sense, can start with the GCS300 or GCS400 and later upgrade to the GCS900 system.