During the week of March 7 - 11, 2017, Las Vegas hotels dawned advertisements from major construction equipment manufacturing companies. It is assumed that this is a large exposition, but the actual size is not felt until you arrive.
We were at ConEXPO once again.
The convention skyline was littered with cranes flying flags of many different nations and banners of many different companies. The parking lots were filled with construction equipment of every kind: aggregate processing machines (grizzly, crushers, separators, reclaimers), asphalt production and paving (cold planers, rollers, compactors, pavers), earthmoving equipment (excavators, front end loaders, skidsteers, articulated-dump trucks), hauling equipment, and land clearing equipment. The sheer number of machines/equipment that were on those lots was immense.
The New Tech Experience was located outdoors in an eye-catching, futuristic looking dome and green space area. These domes focused on innovation and the future of Infrastructure, Jobsite, and Workforce.
At the Infrastructure dome, the exhibitors focused on advanced materials and manufacturing abilities to create a more sustained, user friendly infrastructure, and safer ways to construct a building structure. The Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge was a main point in this dome focusing on five finalists presenting their most innovative, yet feasible, ideas to redesign the United States’ transportation system. Ideas ranged from solar roadways, to wireless high-powered charging systems for personal vehicles, to high-speed transportation powered by electro-magnetic induction.
Upon entering the Jobsite dome, there was an exhibit showing a collaboration between John Deere and BMW Designworks. Deere and Designworks’ concept for the future vision for backhoe was showcased in virtual reality (with VR goggles) or with a tablet put up against a profile of the futuristic backhoe. This conceptual vision of a backhoe was a wonderful design to see due to the unique innovation process called “Fixstern” (“fixed star” in German), as well as its utilization of lightweight materials, technological innovations, and creative lines and styling. As you walked through the rest of the dome you came upon a scaled autonomous vehicle demonstration utilizing real control systems on radio control construction equipment, mimicking a working jobsite.
The Workforce dome held training simulators that could be very helpful and cost effective for companies to utilize. Robotizing a lot of hazardous work on construction sites is what BROKK exhibited for the Workforce dome.
One of the last pieces that you see in the Tech Experience is the first-ever 3D printed (additive manufactured) excavator. Named Project AME, Oak Ridge National Laboratory worked in collaboration with other partners to produce a fully functional excavator utilizing a 3D printed metal part within the linkage. This innovative process has potential to help in material and manufacturing cost reduction. However, the biggest question would be part durability, and if a part made from this additive manufacturing process could actually withstand a full week of work on an active jobsite. The future looks very bright for this type of creativity, and we are anxious see what evolves.
The interior of the exposition contained concrete construction and manufacturing equipment, asphalt paving machines, infrastructure support, engines, and components. In the engines area, exhibitors showcased the advances that each company had been making in fuel efficiency and environmental consciousness. The collaborations between engines and drivetrain components to advance machine efficiency, increase production, and cut down on emissions created a positive outlook for helping the environment and jobsite workers’ health. Hydraulic components, electronics, controls, and other components exhibitors showcased the latest in their designs that will further push efficiencies by increasing component speed while always keeping safety in mind.
After snaking through the interior halls, you find yourself at the North Hall walking amongst industry giants. Towering around you are large construction machines from CAT, Deere, Volvo, Case, Kobelco, Komatsu, and Hyundai. The CAT booth showcased their line-up of large articulated dump trucks and front end loader machines flexing their undeniable prowess. Volvo boasted about their autonomous vehicles, their hybrid technology, and the cast of Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush.” Case displayed a concept large-frame compact tracked loader dozer to gauge public interest. Most impressive amongst these greats, the Deere exhibit did not disappoint. Deere’s line-up of machines showcased the largest excavators, dozers, hybrid loaders, articulated dump trucks, and grader machines within their arsenal as well as the smaller end of their spectrum: skidsteer loaders, backhoe, and attachments. Deere also showcased their utilization of proprietary data analytics and customer care, which is far beyond their competitors and frankly, impressive.
Four days and dozens of pedestrian miles of ConEXPO is an interesting and exhausting experience. The days flow into one another due to the vast quantity of machines that you walk around. After being constantly awed and impressed by the machines and innovations you look back to the expo program map and you realize … there was still more to see. I guess that will have to wait until next time: 2020.
- Patrick Hvolka
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