You CAN Do That! (using the CAN Bus)

Electronic Controls for Mobile Hydraulic Machines

Rock Able | June 6th, 2014

By now, most everyone has seen the viral YouTube video of the young Georgia Tech student giving a speech imploring the other students, "You're at Georgia Tech, You Can Do That!" Go ahead, take 30 seconds.

His message is that since you are surrounded by the knowledge and tradition of Georgia Tech University, there are no limits to what you can accomplish. At the risk of sounding boastful, I'd like to tell all of you machinery OEM's, "We CAN Do That!"

What is "That"?

"That"is virtually anything that you, or your customers, want your machine to do. Think of the possibilities.

Imagine What You Can Do With CAN Bus

Over the past decade, many advances have been made in hardened, mobile electronic CAN Bus control technology. CAN Bus is at the heart of almost every vehicle you buy today, including automobiles, trucks, tractors and yes, mobile equipment. CAN (Controller Area Network) is a network consisting of multiple micro controllers that need to communicate with each other without a host computer. The original CAN spec was developed by Robert Bosch for automotive applications. Today it is used by almost every machine that has electrical controls on it.

In the "old days", when you wired up a circuit on a machine, you connected the supply voltage (12 volts) to a switch, then to a device, and then from the device you wired a ground connection. If you wanted to turn on the device, you flipped the switch and power flowed through it to actuate the device. Today, when you press the button to roll down the window in your car, that button sends a signal to a microprocessor via the CAN Bus and, due to the logic programmed into it, it turns on an output node which supplies 12 volts to the electric motor and rolls your window down.

These CAN Bus microprocessors have been developed to the point that they have now become very sophisticated and powerful, along with being rugged and reliable. Given the broad array of CAN Bus controllers, HMI's (video displays), joysticks, sensors and other devices available today, the application engineers at Cross Company can give you a level of machine control that simply could not be accomplished a few years ago. When you add in the ability to communicate with and control today's electronically controlled engines, there are virtually no limits to what can be accomplished. 

As the diesel engine manufacturers developed technology to achieve the Tier 3 and Tier 4 emissions standards imposed by the EPA, it became quickly apparent that CAN Bus would play a big part in accomplishing those standards. Today, the ECM's (Engine Control Modules) have been standardized on a communications protocol called J1939. Via J1939, the CAN Bus controller can access all of the engine's vital signs plus control throttle and RPM, thus giving you complete knowledge and control of the engine and all the functions of your machine.

Today, using CAN Bus controls, here is just a sample of some of the things you can control on your machine.

  • Start and stop the engine as required for operation, using hydraulics to restart it. (Saves fuel instead of idling.)
  • Automatic sequencing of often repeated functions. (Selectable on and off.)
  • Automatic leveling of the machine.
  • Telemetry to tell you where the machine is, what it is doing, how much it's worked, when it broke down, how much fuel it has in it, when it needs servicing, etc.
  • Load control to prevent a boom from lifting a load heavy enough to tip the machine over.
  • Precise positioning.
  • Closed loop speed control of hydraulic motors.
  • Automatic grading control for graders, dozers, etc.
  • Automatic indexing of machine. (i.e. move forward X feet per cycle.)

When the time comes to evaluate your current machines with your customer and he requests some new level of control, remember "You CAN do that!" Contact a Cross team member to discuss your project today!

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