Komatsu Bulldozer with Topcon 3D Machine Control helps to expand Chester Zoo

Chester Zoo have embarked on a major expansion of the site, expanding its size by approximately a third to cover 50 hectares, which will make it one of the largest zoos in Europe. The project will transform an unoccupied part of the zoo’s estate into the exotic islands of the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Bali, Sumatra, Sumba and Sulawesi. Linked by a series of bridges and including a journey on water, ‘Islands’ as it is to be known, will be home to animals and plants from these southeast Asian islands. It is scheduled to open in 2015.

An artist’s illustration of the boat ride:
(Image courtesy of Chester Zoo)

chester zoo

Laing O’Rourke were awarded the £30m contract for this work and one of its subsidiaries Select Plant Hire (one of the largest plant hire companies in the UK) recently purchased a new Komatsu D65-17 Bulldozer, which was put to work on the site. After discussions between Marubeni-Komatsu and Select Plant Hire, it was agreed that the addition of a Topcon dual-GPS 3D Machine Control system would be an ideal choice to improve grading productivity.

The Komatsu D65-17 Bulldozer is already factory fitted with a Plug-and-play capability for a Topcon system, meaning that the wiring and component mount points for Topcon are already built into the machine. This resulted in the Topcon installation being carried out on-site at the zoo and only taking a few hours to complete. A machine that does not have the Plug-and-play would instead require a number of days to have the Topcon system retrofitted, significantly increasing the amount of machine downtime.

The Topcon dual-GPS 3D system being installed:

chester zoo

The only additional piece of equipment that is required for the system to then work, is a separate GPS base station which acts as a point of reference. The Topcon dual-GPS 3D system can either be purchased by the machine owner or hired. The system amongst other features allows automatic control of the bulldozer blade which improves productivity by up to 40% over conventional methods. It also virtually eliminates the need for ground stakes.

The Bulldozer in operation with the Topcon System installed:

chester zoo

he Topcon Plug-and-play facility is fitted as standard on the following Komatsu Bulldozer models:

  • D37-23 (Ex/Px)
  • D51-22 (Px)
  • D61-23 (Ex/Px)
  • D65-17 (Ex/Px)

The Komatsu D61 Exi/Pxi has an integrated 3D Intelligent Machine Control system, which has been developed in conjunction with Topcon. This system is already factory fitted, so no subsequent installation time is needed. There are unique benefits to this over conventional Machine Control systems, such as the ability to maximise productivity by managing the blade load more effectively. The D61 EXi/PXi also has the first mass-market machine control system to completely eliminate any blade-mounted components, offering a great advantage over competitor systems, in terms of health and safety and wear-and-tear.

We hope in a future article to bring you an update on how successful this bulldozer has been in increasing productivity on this job.

For more information about the Komatsu Bulldozer range and Intelligent Machine Control please call us on 01527 512 512 or contact us here.


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