Using Heaven to move Earth 

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Sweeney Excavation using heaven to move earth

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Robert Sweeney

HAMDEN, CT – Sweeney Excavation of Hamden has become the first contractor in the state to go to the heavens to move the earth.

In a marriage of heavy equipment and satellites, large dirt-moving jobs are being completed with unprecedented precision, speed and savings to customers.

“Clients get a better product at a quicker pace,” says company founder and President Robert Sweeney. “That’s the value of buying Sweeney.”

The value is made possible through the use of a Trimble SiteVision tracking system on a 2003 CAT D8R bulldozer. SiteVision employs “global positioning” technology, determining exact heights and distances on a job site so only the right amount of earth is moved, at any given time.

By sending and receiving signals from satellites, a bulldozer operator can readily see exactly how much earth to move and where on a job site. The system gives heavy equipment operators a roadmap of the territory in which they are moving, just as automobile drivers get on roads, with similar navigation technology.

“A good operator can visualize,” Sweeney says, “but you have to give him the vision. The vision is now in the cab of the bulldozer. He can drive anywhere on a construction site and know what he is going to build and where he is going to build it.”

Installed on the bulldozer are two global positioning system (GPS) antennas, one mounted on each end of the bulldozer’s blade, plus a radio transmitter, which communicates with a base station set up on the site, and an on-board computer with a screen display which shows the construction site on the screen (the same as the blueprint) and the position of the bulldozer on that site. Before grading begins, information from the site is fed to the on-board computer, usually by means of a flash card like that used in digital cameras. This information has been compiled using the original blueprint (AutoCad) drawings, and with the aid of the included software, a third dimension is added to the blueprints to create a three dimensional model of the proposed project. This model allows Sweeney’s customers to virtually drive through their projects on his computer before any soil is ever moved.

During grading, the GPS receiver on the dozer computes the exact position of the GPS antennas 20 times per second. This pinpoints the exact location and orientation of the bulldozer blade in real time. The computer compares the position to the model of the construction project and continually calculates the required cutting or filling of dirt that is needed at that precise location. This information is displayed on the onboard computer screen for the operator.

In addition, the operator is also guided by light bars mounted on the dashboard of the bulldozer for grade and alignment. These light bars will flash up or down to show whether the dozer blade needs to be raised or lowered to be at the proposed grade at the current location of the blade. One light bar will also guide the bulldozer right or left for alignment of the bulldozer. The operator can easily program in to the onboard computer that he/she would like one side of the bulldozer blade to follow along a proposed edge of a road and the lightbar will guide them along this line. This now eliminates the need for extensive stacking out of construction projects.

The system lets the operator know where his blade is within ½-inch horizontally or 1-inch vertically at any time. That precision is unprecedented for a piece of earth-moving equipment that weighs 100,000 pounds and can move thousands of cubic yards of dirt with its blade.

Sweeney added a hydraulic override to the system on a second bulldozer. This system actually lets the GPS operate the blade of the bulldozer, because GPS literally raises and lowers the bulldozer blade for the operator.

“This thinks for you,” Sweeney says. “It knows whether to lift the blade or to drop the blade. It’s all about improving ourselves for our customers.”
Utilizing the GPS technology is not the first innovation that Sweeney has brought to the excavation process. Six years ago, he invested in surveying instruments so that his own team members could lay out catch basins and roads, saving the client both time and money by not having to schedule a surveyor.

Since launching his own business 17 years ago, Sweeney has constantly sought out top talent, equipment and training to deliver the highest quality product and service to his customers. In addition to Sweeney Excavation, he operates Blue Diamond Quarry in East Haven, allowing him to produce his own aggregate for Sweeney and other projects. He also moves his jaw and cone crushers around the state to work with developers on tough, rocky sites.

His latest venture, Sweeney Residential, takes Sweeney back to the roots of his business, residential work, where he got his start installing swimming pools, paving driveways, installing septic systems and excavating residential sites. Sweeney Residential offers landscaping, paving, irrigation installations, patio and paver installation, and retaining wall construction.

“We work with a higher degree of efficiency and accuracy in Sweeney Excavation than was ever possible,” Sweeney says. “I want to bring that same level of service to the homeowner with Sweeney Residential. We continually raise the bar.”