Working Model of the System

Working Model of the System

  High-technology industries have already developed advanced controls to operate machinery. For example, the nuclear industry developed robotic arms for handling radioactive components and NASA developed excellent controls for the giant manipulator arms on space shuttles.

Backhoes, however, are still operated by simple valves that require extreme operator skill and coordination to handle more than one valve motion at a time. (Some single lever controls have recently been introduced, but they do not correspond to the actions of the backhoe and still require extensive operator training.)

  Applied Design Labs proposes the use of space-age technology to control backhoes and other heavy equipment. This would make the use of backhoes easier (less operator skills and training necessary) and result in more efficient productivity with the equipment. In addition, with added axes such as a rotating bucket in the new backhoes, the machines will be more flexible and have the ability to do new types of precision digging.


A worker controls a backhoe using a robotic "master-arm" controller with position and force feedback like a remote control. The master arm is a small replica of the actual backhoe and as the operator manipulates the miniature, the backhoe follows its movements. The replica can be either mounted in the cab of the backhoe or on a cable or even by radio to allow the operator to be in a position to see into a hole being dug. This is a picture of a working model available for demonstration.


  1. Less operator training: Typically, an untrained person can begin digging with these controls easily because they are used as intuitively as a shovel. The only training required would be for placing the backhoe, for use of the outriggers, and for safety considerations.
  2. More efficient in productivity: This system can perform very fast coordinated movements because it is possible to move all the hydraulic axes at the same time and speed is only limited by the hydraulics. This means repetitive movements like scooping material into a truck can be finished in half the time and after hardly and work.
  3. New types of precision earthmoving: Using templates with the master arm allows shapes to be duplicated with unprecedented precision. A perfectly level floor can be shaped with the backhoe by following a level board with the replica arm - even if the backhoe is not leveled! Walls and trenches can be dug, even if the backhoe is not in line with the wall, just by following an angled template. Holes for equipment such as transformer vaults can be formed precisely and with less back-filling by following a custom template. The use of templates in earthmoving is, to our knowledge, completely new, proprietary, and innovative.
  4. New axes: A rotating bucket is especially valuable for digging trenches not in line with the backhoe and for cutting slopes at odd angles. Following a template gives the most control of this rotation when digging at odd angles with the bucket straight to the cut. Extendable arms are also effectively controlled. Adding these extra movements just makes the replica easier to use instead of more handles to deal with, it just makes the master arm feel more flexible, whereas in normal hydraulic controls more axes mean extra valves to operate and think about.

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Copyright © 1999 ADL
Most recent revision August 17, 1999