From apps to integrations, workflow efficiencies are threaded through most aspects of our daily lives. Yet, this kind of optimization isn’t something that’s often associated with the modern-day machine—until now. SMART attachments allow for plug-and-play recognition with a machine by unlocking advanced in-cab display and control capability.
Cat® was the first manufacturer to roll out SMART attachments in early 2020, which included three new attachments for D3 Series Compact Loaders with the latest version of onboard software. And, since then, this kind of advanced integration and machine optimization has been gaining popularity across OEMs, blurring the lines of what “smart” actually means.
This article aims to clarify the confusion around SMART attachments by outlining what it is, how they can help optimize operator efficiency, and what applications are available.
What Is A Cat Smart Attachment?
Just like the advent of smart devices, new technology takes time. The same is true in this case and, over time, SMART attachments will become the only way that blades, buckets, and more will be accepted by operators.
But, for the purpose of defining an emerging area of innovation, we define a SMART attachment as having three key components:
- Attachment Recognition
- Advanced Display
- Control Configuration
We like to think of it as a digital handshake. Once connected, the machine recognizes the attachment and automatically adapts the controls from the comfort of the in-cab display. From here, operators can see attachment settings paired with machine diagnostics and can choose from either (standard) machine control or attachment control modes, along with a host of additional configurations.
What Smart Attachments Are Available Now?
In March of 2020, Cat released the first three SMART attachments to the global marketplace: a Dozer Blade, a Grader Blade, and a Backhoe. All three were designed and developed to enhance the versatility of the D3 Series of Cat Skid Steer Loaders, Compact Track Loaders, and Multi Terrain Loaders.
The SMART Dozer Blade attachment is available for the Cat 279D3, 289D3, 299D3, and the 299D3 XE series Compact Track Loaders and is designed for cutting, moving, and grading. The blade features a curved moldboard to keep material rolling and a trapezoid design with angled ends that allow flush-cutting against vertical surfaces when the blade is fully tilted.
With the SMART Dozer Blade attached, any Cat D3 machine will unlock special display screens that enable blade controls. Selecting the attachment control mode changes the standard joystick functions (left for travel, right for boom and bucket) and allows the left joystick to continue to control travel, while the right joystick adjusts to operate blade functions: tilt (moving the joystick side-to-side), lift (moving the joystick front and back), and angle (rotating the thumbwheel forwards and backwards).
Additional features include lift and tilt modes that enable rough and fine grading by identifying which cylinders (lift-arm or bucket) control-blade functions. To optimize grading even further, an ASSIST feature synchronizes and stabilizes machine and blade movement to permit fewer passes and a memory function allows the operator to set and recall a blade slope at the touch of a button.
The SMART Grader Blade attachment with ASSIST is available as a 78’’ GB120 and a 96’’ GB124 for Cat D3 Skid Steer Loaders and Compact Track Loaders. And, just like the Dozer Blade, the SMART Grader Blade adapts the display and control functions of the machine, including an enhanced home screen that reveals cross-slope and blade angle.
The ASSIST feature allows selecting either a cross-slope right pattern or a cross-slope left pattern and maintains the setting, independent of the machine’s operating angle. With either cross-slope pattern selected, the forward/backward movement of the joystick angles the blade and the display screen provides the operator with feedback about the orientation of the attachment.
The SMART Backhoe attachment significantly increases the versatility of Multi Terrain Loaders to take on tasks like utility trenching, digging footings, and forming and maintaining drainage ditches. The backhoe features electro-hydraulic controls and stabilizers that hydraulically shift side-to-side for digging alongside buildings and footers.
As an added bit of versatility, the SMART Backhoe attachment is compatible with Cat 3-ton excavator work tools like hammers, augers, compactors, and more.
What Smart Attachments Are Coming?
Earlier this year, Cat announced the next iteration of SMART attachments at World of Concrete 2022. SMART Creep is a key feature that senses the load on an attachment and automatically adjusts the drive command to keep applications like a cold planer or wheel saw running at the most productive speed. By continually sensing the load on the attachment, SMART Creep ensures that the engine load remains constant so the operator can monitor hydraulic pressure from the in-cab display.
The latest in a growing line of SMART attachments from Cat is set to release in the third quarter of 2022 and will be available for retrofit on high flow D3 Series machines in a matter of minutes by a certified dealer.
Having an equipment partner you can trust makes the transition to SMART attachments much more seamless. Finning aims to be your regional equipment resource and our equipment experts can answer any questions you might have.
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