As the construction industry progresses, so too do its tools and equipment. Much of this progress can be attributed to technological advances.
Heavy steel construction equipment is increasingly equipped with computerized controls and drive systems to enhance efficiency and safety. These advances also provide safer working conditions for equipment operators.
Tier IV Engines
The EPA’s Tier 4 emission standards have made steel construction equipment and automation cleaner than ever before, giving farmers, contractors and businesses the satisfaction of using their steel construction equipment in a secure working environment while improving air quality for everyone involved.
Yanmar designed an engine specifically to meet these new standards. It boasts high performance, superior fuel economy and the capacity to perform at its peak for extended periods without needing frequent regeneration.
Modern diesel engines are now equipped with sophisticated engine management systems that monitor and regulate dozens of environmental and operating parameters. This helps them ensure combustion efficiency across a wide range of conditions while reducing emissions in the exhaust.
Diesel engines can utilize an after-treatment system to scrub exhaust gas for NOx and PM reduction. This could include using urea, ammonia or both in combination.
One of the most widely used after-treatment systems is Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), which works by reducing oxides of nitrogen and particulates. SCR systems usually feature an oxygen sensor to control how much urea is mixed with DEF, as well as closed-loop monitoring to guarantee efficient operation of the SCR process.
Another popular after-treatment system is Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR). EGR circulates exhaust gases to lower engine temperature and ensure fuel burns more completely.
Some of the latest engines feature variable geometry turbochargers, which are said to be more efficient than traditional designs. This technology enables smaller and compact turbines which improve reliability and power output.
In addition to these advances, diesel engines have also become more fuel-efficient thanks to improvements such as high-pressure common rail fuel injection systems and electronic injector solenoids. These innovations enable precise timing of injectors at any given point in the powerband, decreasing particulate emissions while providing even injection rate across all revs.
These advancements have allowed engines such as Cummins QSB and QSL engines to achieve up to 15% greater fuel efficiency. This not only saves farms money on fuel expenses, but it also enhances their environmental sustainability.
Clean Diesel Fuel
Clean diesel fuel is an integral component of the future for steel construction equipment and automation. Not only does it help reduce carbon emissions, but it also permits continued use of core engine technology and existing infrastructure.
In 2010, Margo Oge of the Environmental Protection Agency noted that “today” it would take 60 new clean diesel trucks to equal the emissions of one pre-1988 truck – an amazing achievement.” She went on to add that “this is proof positive of progress made in this sector”.
Today’s cleaner diesel vehicles not only reduce emissions, but they are improving the air quality in local communities where equipment operates. For instance, a recent study discovered that using 100% biodiesel to power construction machinery resulted in 50% less soot particles – improving local air quality.
Biodiesel not only benefits the environment, but it also offers numerous other advantages. It increases lubricity – increasing engine and part life – emits less soot and helps reduce filter regenerations.
Another alternative to clean diesel is ULSD, or ultra-low sulfur diesel. This fuel has sulfur levels of only 15 ppm, 95 percent lower than the previous standard of 3,000 ppm.
This fuel is widely available and can be easily injected into most diesel engines due to its low sulfur content. Its lack of impact on cetane number, a measure of fuel efficiency, is minimal.
Unfortunately, diesel is a not a sustainable solution for heavy duty machinery that requires high power outputs and long charge times. A liquid fuel-based alternative such as biodiesel is the best way to reduce carbon emissions and enhance sustainability in construction.
State and federal governments are funding programs to replace more than 11 million older diesel trucks, tractors and steel construction equipment with cleaner fuel technology. These projects are essential in cutting emissions while helping reduce air pollution in communities.
Autonomous steel construction equipment has been on the horizon for some time, and while it is still in its early stages of development, many machines already feature basic autonomy. From blade control on bulldozers with machine learning to backhoes featuring return to dig automation, these systems are taking over repetitive tasks and increasing operator efficiency.
Although these developments offer efficiency, cost savings and safety advantages, they don’t completely replace human interaction in certain circumstances. As a result, many construction industry experts anticipate that semi-autonomous steel construction equipment will be an essential step on the road towards autonomous equipment in the future.
To meet this objective, standardizing data exchange between various manufacturers of construction equipment will be essential. This will enable machines to communicate with one another and optimize job site applications while sending critical information back to contractors.
Some companies are working towards this technology by employing telematics and remote controls that would enable equipment operators to remotely operate their vehicles and monitor them. These innovations will reduce unscheduled downtime and boost machine productivity.
These technologies will increase the resiliency of construction projects and save contractors money in the long run by cutting fuel consumption and improving uptime. They also enhance worker safety and their environment by preventing accidents.
Though these technologies are in their early stages of development, they offer the potential to boost efficiency and quality in construction projects. Companies are already taking advantage of these innovations by forgoing heavy machinery requirements, thus saving costs and time on construction tasks.
Skanska for example utilizes on-site robot welding to craft steel reinforcement baskets. This cutting-edge technology helps reduce waste, improves productivity and quality, and saves them money on transporting completed baskets to construction sites.
It is anticipated that this technology will have a major impact on the construction industry in the near future, enabling it to finish projects more quickly, reduce waste, and promote efficient and sustainable practices in construction.
The market for autonomous equipment is expected to expand significantly over the coming years, driven by global labor shortages, technological advancements and demand for smart city projects.
In recent years, the steel industry has been adopting digitization into their processes and production in an effort to boost productivity and efficiency. This transformation can be observed throughout both equipment and material supply chains as well as metals production itself.
Digitalization is more than just technology: it’s an approach that propels a digital transformation of an organization, from its culture and skillset, through technology. Not only can this increase employee engagement and productivity levels, but it can also reduce costs and have an environmental benefit.
Digitization is also being employed to create innovative business models, giving metals companies an edge in serving their clients and competing against other industries in the digital age. For instance, online trading platforms are replacing one-on-one relationships between steel producers and their customers.
Another way digitalization is being applied to the metals industry is through predictive maintenance. This type of approach utilizes AI-powered systems to collect data on machinery and production processes, then makes health checks and schedules maintenance work accordingly to minimize downtime.
By leveraging advanced sensor technology and digital production planning tools, the smart plant of tomorrow will be able to optimize each aspect of its operation in real-time. It creates a virtual twin for each component in its steel plant, enabling it to continuously assess how these parts are performing and make adjustments as needed.
Continuous fine-tuning will guarantee that every part of the steel plant is performing at its optimum potential, delivering improved performance and capacity while cutting downtime and costs. Furthermore, it gives you more control over the production process as you can react faster to any unexpected issues that arise.
These improvements can also enhance the steel producer’s competitiveness and profitability. For instance, being able to respond promptly to client demand allows manufacturers to offer customized orders at lower lot sizes with fewer rework fees. Furthermore, generating a full digital product history provides customers with peace of mind as it accurately records each item’s journey from raw material through finished goods.