Design Challenge - September 2013

Jon Pope - Keep It Simple

John Pope How many people know what every single button of their TV remote control does? How many can adjust their car’s HVAC at 70mph without looking at the controls? The more choices, functions and buttons that are supposed to make our life more simple just seem to make it more complicated.

So by 2033, I’m hoping this trend will have turned around. I truly believe technology will enable us to build more simple machines that will require less monitoring, allowing for an easier operator interface.

With that in mind, the excavator of 2033 could be 100% electric, with no hydraulic motors or pumps. The linkless track system of my walking crane design (iVT June 2009) that was driven by linear motors would remove moving or binding drivetrain parts to enable almost silent running. All hydraulics would be replaced by linear motor actuators, as on my front-end loader in iVT March 2009.

This all results in a machine that’s much easier to service, with very little monitoring, and that only produces sounds as it interacts with the environment.
The cab no longer needs a complicated cluster of gauges, or banks of warning lights. And now that the machine makes virtually no noise, all system monitoring and control can be done via voice commands – from the machine to the operator, or vice versa.

It all starts with the operator climbing into the cab and saying: “Set up excavator”. The excavator will audibly communicate all important instructions, while simple voice commands will tell it what to do. Can’t hear? Mount any tablet with wi-fi to the right-side window and all systems can be monitored and controlled on a very simple interface.

The only control interfaces that have not changed are the joysticks that control the boom, stick, bucket and slewing; and the foot pedals that control travel functions. I strongly believe that these legacy controls will still be around as the operator needs physical feedback to avoid unknowingly pushing the machine too far.

So essentially the cab of 2033 would have even simpler controls and monitoring systems than even the first hydraulic excavators! 
The cab itself is rounded, providing a front entry, round-sliding ‘pocket door’ that enables the operator to stand up when it is fully open. A telescopic boom can push the cab outwards, towards the area being excavated.

Its glass floor means the operator no longer has to dig with blind spots and has a full view of the work area. It can also lift up like today’s parallel-lift cabs, giving a much better view when working in scrap yards or loading barges and trucks. ‘Demolition mode’ pushes the cab up and back, away from falling debris, and also gives the operator a better overall view of the structure being demolished.

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Pope Design




Jon Pope has designed heavy equipment for over 15 years. He has worked for a variety of off-highway OEMs, whether as an independent design consultant or employed by Teague.





Tel: +1 201 343 9065


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