Earth Mover R&D

When Caterpillar Inc. wanted to improve its scale-model testing of its earth moving machines, its engineers selected a combination of software and real-time hardware from National Instruments.

Caterpillar wanted to be able to tweak a simulated model of a machine before testing the design with specialized robotic earth moving equipment, performing an initial evaluation of how the entire machine functioned before moving on to full-scale prototyping.

Innoventor, Inc., a systems integrator, helped build the machine-modeling system, which consists of two separate computer processors, each running NI's LabVIEW software. The first computer, a desktop PC, includes the system's user interface and collects data from an NI image acquisition board during the test. The second processor, an NI real-time PXI controller, controls the test process based on the selected Simulink model and collects data. A robot physically performs the test by controlling a scale model of a machine bucket that digs into a pile of soil. Transducers provide position, load, and torque feedback to the real-time control system.

Contact Ernest Martinez, National Instruments, Austin, TX; 800-258-7022,; Sam Hammond, Innoventor, Inc., Maryland Heights, MO; 314-692-9998,,