Building the Future: Our Best Modern Breakthroughs

September 27, 2017

Caterpillar has a long history of innovation, from the first commercially successful track-type tractor to electric drive technology and more. Our people continue to build on this legacy today with the development of groundbreaking solutions – solutions that will influence our competitors, change the future and allow our customers to build a better world.

Check out 10 of the most notable innovations from the Caterpillar family over the last decade:

Autonomous Solutions for Large Mining Trucks

Our autonomous solutions – which are currently used in three mine sites -- are improving safety and productivity for our customers, especially within rugged and remote locations. This amazing technology allows some of our largest, most powerful machines to determine the location of nearby objects, anticipate the movements of manned vehicles and communicate about their location and movements.  

3-D Printing

The 3-D printing, or “additive manufacturing,” industry is growing rapidly, and Caterpillar is at the forefront of this space. Last year, Caterpillar opened the Additive Manufacturing Factory in Mossville, Illinois. Here, our engineers are encouraged to experiment with the different ways 3-D printing can be applied.

“The technology gives us the chance to solve problems we never thought possible – for example, combining multiple parts into one to eliminate assembly and potential quality problems or creating a lattice structure inside a heavy part so it’s lighter,” said Stacey Delvecchio, additive manufacturing product manager. “We can also use it to make parts closer to our customers to eliminate downtime.” 

Drones and Photogrammetry Technology

Drone technology enables 2-D/3-D surveying of terrain using overlapping GPS-enabled photographs that are stitched together to create a highly accurate, high-density terrain map from the individual pixels. This information can be used to track material, create site maps and monitor project progress.  

In the past, a surveyor on foot had to traverse rough ground to record individual survey points. It could take hours to gather data points over a small area. Now, a drone can swoop in and capture millions of data points over the same area in 15-20 minutes – resulting in a higher resolution map at lower cost.

Caterpillar's experience with GPS technologies, and our ability to transform 3-D terrain maps into machine control and guidance programs, has helped put us ahead of our competitors in this rapidly growing area.

Welding Simulation Technology

Caterpillar’s state-of-the-art welding simulation software is second-to-none. The Weld Distortion and Residual Stress Simulation tools simulate and predict the stress that creates distortion of the materials being joined by a welding process. These tools impact manufacturing cost by eliminating the processes currently used in factories to straighten parts affected by welding distortion to ensure top-quality machines.

Weld Sequence Optimization (WSO) is capable of simulating hundreds of welding sequences in a short amount of time (days vs. months), and it can identify the ideal welding sequence that produces very little distortion – making straightening operations no longer necessary.

Today we have over 45 products designed using WSO software. Current research is focused on putting the tool in the hands of design and manufacturing engineers.

Dynamic Gas Blending™

Dynamic Gas Blending (DGB) is Caterpillar’s brand of dual fuel diesel/natural gas engines. DGB substitutes inexpensive natural gas in place of diesel fuel, giving customers significant cost savings while maintaining reliability, durability and emissions compliance. DGB retrofit kits allow customers to update their existing fleets, and full diesel backup gives customers flexibility in fuel sources.

Cat® Connect Technology & Services

Cat Connect is our unified go-to-market offering across all industries that represents Cat technology and technology-enabled services for Cat equipment and fleet applications. Cat Connect is focused on solving – even anticipating – our customers' challenges by providing them with the data and analytics necessary to become more productive, efficient, safe and profitable.

Virtual Product Development (Simulation)

Caterpillar uses simulation in all stages of its product development process and even after production. Using simulation early in the process provides great value by allowing Caterpillar engineers to virtually explore potential product and process designs without having to first build prototypes in iron, which is costly and time consuming. Using simulation helps engineers from all areas of expertise:

  • Drive product development efficiency.
  • Save money.
  • Decrease time spent doing re-work.
  • Improve quality.
  • Allow for fast-paced innovation.

Surface Engineering

Surface engineering is a broad description of several technologies that are additive manufacturing at their core and include: thermal spray coatings, advanced cladding and thin film coatings. These techniques allow engineers to impart high performance surface characteristics only on specific, strategically targeted components, to provide enhanced resistance to wear, corrosion and high-temperatures.

Surface Engineering Technology in use at Caterpillar:

  • Replace hard Chrome plating on LMT suspension and lift cylinders.
  • Double the sealing system life of undercarriage track joints.
  • Increase fuel systems’ robustness to variable fuel quality.
  • Enable the remanufacture of LMT struts and numerous engine components.

Cat Microgrid Technology

For more than 70 years Caterpillar has been providing diesel and gas generator sets to power remote microgrids. In April 2015, Caterpillar announced a strategic alliance with First Solar, expanding the Cat Microgrid offering to include photovoltaic panels.  

The Cat Microgrid technology suite now includes power systems with environmentally friendly solar panels, state-of-the-art energy storage and advanced monitoring and control systems, along with the traditional line of reliable power generation equipment – all designed to reduce fuel expenses, emissions and total cost of ownership.

Advanced Analytics

Analytics allows us to leverage vast amounts of data and advanced mathematical techniques to predict potential outcomes and make better business decisions. We’re using analytics in business applications like marketing, supply chain management and aftermarket solutions as well as for product quality, product optimization and site productivity optimization.

Computer vision is one specific area of development in analytics. It uses information from images and video streams to understand machine operations, track technicians in factory settings, measure wear on undercarriage systems and more. One project in particular is using vision to determine the distance and relative velocity between machines.  These measurements will allow the integration of advanced control features that will assist operators by actively managing machine to machine interactions in real time during a work cycle.  Additionally, video is also being used to determine when work tools, such as buckets, blades or scraper bowls, are at their full capacity, saving the operator from monitoring these levels directly. Bottom line – artificial intelligence is here, and it's great for productivity!  

The Future Belongs to Those Who Build It

We believe that the challenges our customers face can be overcome with technology. It's why we're constantly working together to push the limits of what's possible.

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Caterpillar Innovation

Caterpillar employees have turned their passion for product development into innovations that create customer value and make the world a better place.

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