Seeking ways to be more productive? Curious how technology can impact your jobsite? Caterpillar application, equipment and technology experts are available to answer your questions.




Building roads is precision work. And the traditional approach to achieving accurate grade or smoothness of the paved surface is primarily a manual one, as operators rely on stringlines and their eyesight to set the equipment, make a pass, and then stop to have checkers and surveyors inspect their work. It’s a time-tested method that works well, but even the most experienced operator will need a handful of passes to get a surface to exact specifications.

The gains that come from completing jobs faster and more efficiently have generated momentum for 3D technologies for grading and paving. This automated approach replaces staking, stringing and multiple checks with digital design plans and GPS/GNSS coordinate guidance, allowing even novice operators to create a perfect surface in a single pass.

With 3D grading and/or paving technology, road builders can:

So why isn’t everyone going 3D? Basically, the cost investment. Adding 3D technologies to equipment requires a serious learning curve in terms of process, technology and operators.

3D systems for both grading and paving also require more hardware and more sophisticated
interface systems which adds to the initial cost investment. Most contractors using 3D paving systems advise a thorough analysis and preparation of your operation for the change, and a significant amount of work secured, so that you can see a steady recovery of the initial investment.

When it comes to grading technologies, 2D grading systems are simpler and require a smaller investment, but they are not as accurate as 3D systems. Depending on the volume of work, costs could be recouped in a matter of months, as a result of getting more done in less time.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two grading technologies:

2D Systems


3D Systems


Work best on flat planes and slopes


Work on planes, slopes, contours and complex curves


Use an external point of reference (stringline, curb or laser) Use an internal point of reference (digital design plan)


Use one or more of these sensing technologies: slope, rotation, sonic, laser


Use one or more 2D sensors + GPS/GNSS receiver or Universal Total Station


Cost less than 3D


Cost more than 2D


Require less infrastructure (no additional surveyors, design managers, base stations or data radios)


Require additional infrastructure, including digital design modeling expertise


Work well when job conditions and applications rarely change


Work well when job conditions and applications are always changing


Is 3D technology right for you? The answer depends on many factors specific to your business, including:

If you think it’s time to add paving or grading technologies to your operation, your Cat® dealer can help you explore the options and choose the best technology for your needs.