World of Concrete Recap: The Show Brought Awesome New Tech and Machines from Topcon, Cat, Kubota and More

World of Concrete is one of the biggest and best tradeshows for earthmoving equipment. Held every year in Las Vegas, it’s very much a concrete show — booths full of pumps, roller screeds, power trowels and breakers, matched with expert-led sessions on everything from waterproofing to 3D printing in concrete — but all the big construction equipment brands also show up — Cat, Kubota, John Deere, Case, Bobcat and beyond. The event is always an opportunity to get a vibe for what’s happening in the overall off-highway equipment industry.

What was that vibe? Just happy to be here was the first impression I got from most folks. Attendance for the 2022 show last week was close to 37,000 registered professionals, and this is a show that could easily draw 60,000+ pre-pandemic, but the exhibitors I spoke to seemed pleased with who showed up and shopped. There was, of course, talk of supply chain issues and shortages, but there were also some very cool machines and technologies showcased at the four-day event.

Held every year in Las Vegas, it’s very much a concrete show — booths full of pumps, roller screeds, power trowels and breakers, matched with expert-led sessions on everything from waterproofing to 3D printing in concrete — but all the big construction equipment brands also show up — Cat, Kubota, John Deere, Case, Bobcat and beyond.

But before I get into that, I must note the show utilized both the new Las Vegas Convention Center, which is gorgeous, and part of the old one (outdoor arenas adjacent to both). The campus was connected by an easily walkable skybridge or the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop, which is an underground tunnel system utilizing a fleet of electric-powered Tesla cars to ferry attendees to three different convention center stations. The 1.7 miles of tunnel was built in one year using a tunnel boring machine, and it cost some $47 million. It made lugging myself back and forth between the old and new convention center a little more relaxing and fun. All these new elements made World of Concrete seem refreshingly new again, so if you’ve been before but not in a while, it’s worth another visit (the setup has changed).

Compact Grade Control

At World of Concrete 2022, Topcon’s MC-Mobile system topped my list of wow moments. Topcon Positioning Group is the latest brand to focus its lasers on the machine control arena for compact earthmoving equipment, but MC-Mobile is a one-stop-shop game changer. The product includes a removable Android tablet that is used both inside the machine (a compact track loader or mini excavator) to control the machine in grading operation and outside the machine to collect survey data and to build your project design. The setup comes with a robotic total station that works in concert with the tablet to collect data.

“Our MC-Mobile product line is really going to be geared for entry level contractors,” said Mark Jones, business development manager at Topcon, speaking at the show. “It’s geared for that job that takes about a day or a day and a half to finish. This system works with our LN-150 [robotic total station]. It’s our layout navigator, but we’re using it here as our elevation reference. We’re also using this tablet. After I set up my elevation reference, this tablet becomes my data collector. After I’m done with all that, I can step away, grab a coffee, sit down in the truck and design the job with this tablet. When I’m done with that, I’m going to hop out of that truck. I’m going to climb into my CTL or my mini excavator and execute that job I’ve just created [using the same tablet].”

On a compact track loader or skid steer (the former is preferred), the MC-Mobile will work with a grader blade or box blade attachment, automating the movements of the implement to ensure the perfect grade for small projects. On a mini excavator, the system would help automate the boom and bucket, keeping it within certain parameters set up in the project design. The displays and other components can easily be shared across numerous machines in owned or rental fleet environments. The setup is currently utilizing 2D designs, but the system is 3D ready. “We just need to catch up to the firmware,” explained Oscar Cantú, marketing manager for North America at Topcon. Applications include grade checking, creating designs on the fly and self-performing site layouts without traditional staking — everything from home builds and golf courses to pool excavations and any small project requiring an exacting grade.

“Who are these customers? What do they own? And what type of projects are they using these compact machines on?” pondered Cantú. “What we’ve learned is what we thought. Full-size dozers and grading excavators carve up the raw land and make a subdivision, but then the compact machines come in. That’s where we’re subbing into each house pad and doing grading around the house. That’s the solution we’re trying to bring to these compact size machines.”

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Smart Creep and Remote Ops

Caterpillar was also showcasing cool attachment automation at World of Concrete. A few years back, Caterpillar announced the release of 16 new Cat D3 Series skid steer loader and compact track loaders. These new machines also introduced Smart Attachments. These special implements can be recognized by Cat D3 Series loaders, allowing tailored joystick controls and automation features to match the attachment and task.

Cat has a dozer blade, grader blade and backhoe that are all considered Smart Attachments. Now, Cat has announced Smart Creep — a tech that will work with its planers and wheel saws. Smart Creep senses the load on the attachment and automatically adjusts the drive command to keep the cold planer or wheel saw running at the most productive speed. A combination of attachment sensors and proprietary software optimally balances attachment load and machine speed to maximize productivity. By continually sensing the load on the attachment, Smart Creep increases machine speed when encountering less resistance and automatically slows the machine when encountering higher load. Engine load remains constant, while the operator can monitor hydraulic pressure on the in-cab display panel.

Targeted availability for Smart Creep on Cat D3 skid steers and track loaders is the third quarter of 2022. A field installation kit consisting of sensors and machine software for operating the new feature will be made available for the existing fleet of D3 Series loaders and attachments. Once commercially available, new cold planer and wheel saw purchases will be shipped from the factory with the required hardware installed, and new D3 models will come Smart Creep ready from the factory.

At the show, Caterpillar also announced the expansion of Cat Command for Loading to its D3 Series skid steer and compact track loaders. This is remote operation technology, available in two configurations — line-of-sight operation via a lightweight console and non-line-of-sight operation via a remote Command station. It’s ideal for operating in environments such as stevedoring, waste, demo and site decommissioning.

Amazingly, it only takes a dealer-installed field kit to make any Cat D3 skid steer or track loader Command-ready. The line-of-sight system includes indicator lights, wireless receiver and antennas installed on the cabin roof with the Command activation switch mounted behind a lockable door with ground-level access. The non-line-of-sight system adds front, rear and side cameras for complete 360-degree viewing and a microphone for sound. I saw this in operation at the show. It’s pretty mind-blowing.

Micro Machines

Compact excavators continue to trend. This February issue is dedicated to them. One of the leaders in the American mini market is Kubota Tractor Corp. The brand kept our attention focused on the segment at the show, announcing two new units — the K008-5 conventional tail swing excavator and the U10-5 minimal tail swing excavator. While the K008-5 will replace the -3 model with various upgrades, the U10-5 takes an in-demand spot in the U Series minimal tail swing lineup.

“This is an all-new model to the Kubota excavator lineup,” said Patrick Baker, Kubota Construction Equipment product manager, at the WOC press launch. “It sits right at about 2,600-lbs operating weight, 10 hp. But before we jump into the specs, I wanted to talk about Kubota’s success in the 0- to 1-[metric]-ton space. We’ve seen very good success with segments and applications such as rental, landscape, commercial and residential construction, as well as utility work. That’s where you’re going to find a nice history with these 1-ton excavators. This machine will still do very well in rental, but we believe it’ll be very strong for those professional applications I just mentioned.”

The U10-5 has a 5-ft, 11-in. digging depth with a bucket breakout force of 2,337 lbf. Micro excavators can sometimes feel rough during operation because they’re so small. The U10-5 has an enhanced hydraulic control system, offering smooth operation and an increase in digging productivity. The unit is nearly zero tail swing with a minimal overhang at 0.6 in. over the tracks. The U10-5 also offers the same side lever joystick operational controls found on the other larger Kubota excavators. On the undercarriage, the U10-5’s tracks contract to 2 ft, 6 in. for getting into tight spaces and widen back out 3 ft, 3 in. for stable operation. The dozer blade folds in as well. A two-speed travel pedal allows the operator to easily switch between high and low gear.

“Not only have we updated the operator station [on the U10-5] but also the ROPS, the LED lights and we have a new peel resistant seat,” said Baker. “We don’t have a cab for this machine, so there’s no protection from the weather, from the sun. So, this is going to be more resistant, more durable. It won’t have to be replaced as often, and it’ll keep that operator comfortable. You’re also going to find an item that we’re pretty happy about — a retractable seatbelt. On our -3s, the seatbelt kind of hung to the side. With it being so popular in rental, those would be cut off, torn off, ripped off, and the owner or the operator would continuously have to replace that seatbelt for rental purposes. It’s now retractable, hoping to cut down on those owner-operator costs.”

Mini excavators are making big waves on jobsites all over North America. Click here for the latest news on these machines and the companies that make them.

Remote Compaction

Doosan Portable Power is giving its compaction line an upgrade in 2022. The company had four new light compaction machines on display at its WOC booth: a forward plate compactor, a reversible plate compactor, trench roller and an upright rammer. The trench roller in particular caught my attention. It’s a new product addition to the Doosan Portable Power lineup, while the other three machines are product updates. The Doosan DTR3275 trench roller is operated from a wireless remote that is solar powered, so crews do not need to enter the trench or worry about charging a remote. The Doosan DTR3275 is also one of a few trench rollers on the market the articulates left to right while also oscillating up and down. This wide range of movement increases roller ground contact to complete the job in fewer passes.

“This is the biggest update for Doosan Portable Power light compaction products since Doosan acquired the line in 2007,” said Joe Tomlin, light compaction product specialist for Doosan. “The addition of a trench roller to our lineup has our dealers excited because it’s something our customers have been asking for.”

Each machine in the Doosan compaction lineup is redesigned and powered by Honda or Yanmar engines. A big focus when releasing these new machine options was an increase in ease of use and maintenance, including available transport wheels for all models, hour meters to track service intervals and water sprinklers. All the units are also painted in a cool blue, black and white color scheme. At the show, Tomlin noted the compaction equipment market is heating up, so expect these new units on jobsites near you soon.

Overall, Great Show

It was good to get out. World of Concrete 2022 was busy, so I can’t encapsulate this big event in these news spreads. I explored Bobcat’s newish compact wheel loaders. I stopped by the Case booth to discuss the launch of cool new machines. I ran through all the vacuum lift attachments at the Vacuworx booth. To read more about these units and lots of other machines, roll over to compactequip.com where we have extensive coverage and analysis.

Keith Gribbins is publisher of Compact Equipment.

Toro Electric Buggy

After a decade in the buggy business, Toro announced a new evolution in material handling at World of Concrete — the electric Ultra Buggy. Featuring a compact design and zero exhaust emissions, the new electric Ultra Buggy is ideal for indoor construction and renovation applications. With a narrow width of 31.5 in., it can fit through a 3-ft door with a crash bar and features a zero-turn-radius to navigate hard-to-access areas. Built to be versatile and agile, it’s equipped with a foldup platform so operators can choose to stand on or walk behind the unit. The Toro electric Ultra Buggy is powered by HyperCell, a battery system developed by Toro specifically to meet customer demand and is optimized to deliver an eight-hour continuous runtime. The durable design is ready to haul up to 16 cu ft or 2,500 lbs of material. The new electric Ultra Buggy will be available in fall 2022. Get geeked. For more info, visit toro.com.