Caterpillar upgrades D6N dozer with new transmission, 3 grade control technologies for 10% productivity boost

Caterpillar has unveiled what the company calls a “smart” upgrade to its D6N dozer, outfitted with an enhanced cab, a package of standard grade control technologies and a new fuel-saving transmission.

The new D6N is powered by a Tier 4 Final-compliant Cat C7.1 ACERT engine that pushes 166 net horsepower. The XL model of the machine weighs in at 36,943 pounds while the LGP model is 40,446 pounds. Blade capacity is 4.3 to 5.1 cubic yards.

The new engine is paired with a new transmission with a lock-up clutch torque converter that selects the best drive mode for the job at hand. Caterpillar says this new transmission “provides the performance of direct drive with the ease of operation of power shift.”

Furthering the fuel savings provided by the torque converter, the transmission also features Enhanced Auto Shift which allows operators to select the optimum ground speed for the load being moved. Meanwhile, the electronically-contrlled, variable-speed demand fan adjusts speed to conserve engine horsepower and fuel, along with reducing sound levels.

The result, Cat says,  is fuel savings between 10 and 15 percent with productivity gains of up to 10 percent, compared to the previous generation D6.

Speaking of productivity gains, Caterpillar says operators of all experience levels will benefit from the standard inclusion of three grade control technologies on the D6N.

The first, Cat Grade Control Slope Assist, has allowed operators to finish up to 39 percent faster, with up to 68 percent better surface quality and using up to 82 percent less operator effort, in Cat’s testing. It does this by automatically maintaining pre-established blade angles for the grade required.

An in-cab display, seen below, provides real-time mainfall and slope indicators and the system can be run in one of two modes, Basic or Advanced. Here is Cat’s breakdown of the modes:

Basic Mode includes Manual Control and Auto Control settings.

– When using Manual Control, the operator receives slope guidance, but makes blade adjustments manually.

– With Auto Control, the system maintains the last mainfall and blade slope values input by the operator. (The mainfall value automates blade lift, while the blade slope value automates blade tilt).

Advanced Mode combines Basic Mode capabilities with automated button controls to further simplify operation.

– The Recall Value button adjusts the blade to the programmed mainfall and slope at the beginning of a pass when Auto is pressed.

– Swap Slope changes the direction of the recall value.

– Match Slope matches the highlighted recall value to the actual slope value.

– Increment/Decrement adjusts the actual slope value above or below the highlighted value using right joystick buttons.

The second standard feature on the D6N, Cat Stable Blade, “complements the operator’s blade-control input for attaining higher quality finish grades quicker and with less effort,” Cat says.

Third, Cat Slope Indicate, keeps operators up to date on cross slope and mainfall on the machine’s primary monitor, allowing them to work more accurately.

The Cat Slope Assist panel in the dashboard of the new D6N.The Cat Slope Assist panel in the dashboard of the new D6N.

But for those jobs that are a bit more complex, the D6N can be outiftted further with optional grade control tech including Cat Grade Control 3D, Cat AccuGrade and the AccuGrade Ready option.

Grade Control 3D won’t be available until early next year, Cat says, but is an integrated grade-control system that removes masts from the blade of the dozer and places them on the roof of the machine. The design sounds similar to Komatsu’s intelligent Machine Control tech introduced in 2013. And like Komatsu’s iMC, Cat says its system assists operators in both production dozing and fine-grading applications.

Grade Control 3D includes both the Cat Autocarry system and the AccuGrade Ready option.

The Ready option allows for an easy installtion of AccuGrade, a versatile grade-control system that provides: the choice of lasers for 2D flat-plane and slope work; GNSS (GPS) control for 3D cuts and contours and/or systems using a Universal Total Station for fine and finish grading.

Cat says Grade Control 3D no includes elements of the Slope Assist system for a higher level of grading than was previously possible on the system.

Of course, all of these technologies talk to Cat’s Product Link telematics service, keeping owners and supervisors up-to-date with machine location, hours, fuel usage, idle time and event codes.

Finally, operators will be happy to hear that the D6N’s cab features more leg room and wider, easier-closing doors. The overall cab environment is more comfortable thanks to an improved HVAC system and air filter along with smoother shifting and quieter operation from the new powertrain.

Plus, Cat has improved the display and interface of the machine to bring it in line with its other dozers while electro-hydraulic mapping allows operators to fine tune implement response to perfernce or the job at hand.