Starting out with machine control: Using Leica iCON site for earthmoving guidance

Did you know that as well as using Leica iCON site and the iCON gps 60 Smart Antenna for all traditional measuring tasks on a construction site, you can also use it on a dozer or scraper as an entry-level machine control guidance solution? Here we explain how iCON site can help you make your cut and fill volume calculations off-machine, and then help you to maintain accuracy on-machine, as an earthmoving guide. As well as increasing efficiency, accuracy and safety, this feature can help you add extra services to your business, all with a tool you may already be using.

Benefits of machine control and earthmoving guidance

Let’s take a step back and look at why machine control has become a key part of a digitised construction site. Simply defined, machine control is a system that calculates the position of the tool on a piece of machinery – like the bucket of an excavator or the blade of a bulldozer – and via a display, lets the operator know exactly what’s going on. It tells you either the position of the tool in relation to the design or in an automated situation, the machine control system will keep the tool on the design elevation. It offers many benefits because machine operators can work more efficiently with better access to reliable information. It makes it easier to work to specifications, saving time and fuel.

For use cases that do not justify a fully automated machine control system site is an ideal entry-level machine control option. It lets you try this way of working and develop new services using a familiar solution. If you later want to move on to a more advanced solution you can experience fully automated machine control (machine automation) with Leica MC1.

Leica iCON site earthmoving guidance: how it works

iCON site on scraper To use Leica iCON site for fast and accurate earthmoving works, you can import design data or you can measure your site and derive simple design from it. Based on the design or reference data used, the software calculates cut and fill values. These are calculated based on the tool’s position relative to the design. The solution is very flexible because it can be easily used on and off-machine: the same iCON gps 60 Smart Antenna and Leica iCON CC80 tablet that you use on the pole solution are also used on the machine for the machine guidance solution. On-machine, the tablet and the iCON gps 60 are is placed inside the cabin and the gps 60 is connected to a passive antenna (CGA100) on the blade. Unlike Leica MC1, Leica iCON site is an indication system: the driver operates the machine manually, using the values shown on the display as his or her guide.

Earthmoving guidance in practice: balanced elevation

Many of our customers use the earthmoving guidance feature in Leica iCON site when construction requires an area to be flattened in the most efficient way possible. Using site measurements, Leica iCON site can take the terrain model and create a design for a balanced elevation. This has equal cut and fill areas, where the material you need to fill the site is equal to the material you are excavating. Once Leica iCON site has created the balanced elevation plan, the machine operator can follow it from the in-machine display and work accurately to the elevation. In some markets, this is a popular service to be able to offer clients, extending the skillset of your business.

A versatile solution that you gives you greater ROI

Leica iCON site CC80 on screaperFor existing customers, using Leica iCON site for earthmoving guidance means more return on investment, with minimal training required. The team at construction company Hick Group, Auckland, New Zealand, uses Leica iCON site on their heavy construction projects. They use the system on a pole for grade checking and stakeout tasks and then installed on a construction machine for machine guidance.

Peter Andrew, Contracts Manager, explains: “The ability for us to use the systems on machines as well as in the field, allows us to instead of switching machines, for example from section to section, we can just take that tablet system out of one machine and transfer it to another. The operators can take it out of the machines and use it as a field rover to get an understanding of what they’re doing outside the current alignment. The ability to be able to look at that split-screen three-dimensional image of the job is invaluable.”

Increasing efficiency on site

Machine guidance saves time by making the operator’s job easier and their workflow more efficient. It also reduces the survey work required on site because you simply load the design model into Leica iCON site and go. Andrew explains: “The favourite features for the operator are to be able to look at the 3D imagery on the screen, the split-screen capability to look at the heights live and to see what they’re doing without having to get out and measure and read pegs.”

Finally, as well as being able to work more quickly, it also helps your team to work more safely, “[Operators] understand where they’re going to start where they’re going to end up and that methodology just makes everything a whole lot safer for them.”

Take your on-site workflow to the next level with the Leica iCON site machine guidance solution, the perfect add-on for machine operation.


Matthias Schmidt

Senior Product Portfolio Manager

Machine Control Division

Leica Geosystems AG


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