Purdue University Graduate School
PhD_FinalThesis_Madau_V3.pdf (6.62 MB)


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posted on 2022-04-28, 21:45 authored by Riccardo MadauRiccardo Madau

Most of the heavy-duty machines, in particular construction vehicles, employ hydraulically actuated functions that are used to perform multiple tasks with elevated power requirements. Such high-power demand motivates the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to minimize the costs associated with energy consumption through the design of such hydraulic systems. The human-machine interaction (human factors) and the efficiency of the hydraulic control system are considered key elements towards a successful design. The interaction between the operator and the machine considerably affects the performance of construction machines. In order to maintain high levels of productivity, the operators require comfort and effortless controllability of the multiple hydraulic functions. The comfort requirement can include limited shocks and oscillations while operating the machines (while driving and controlling the implement motion), cabin accessories (AC, radio, cameras, etc.) and accessibility to the instrumentation. Besides, the operators have to control multiple functions simultaneously in an efficient manner while maintaining high levels of productivity. Consequently, the operators require smooth controllability of such functions. Such demand can largely affect the efficiency of the expected hydraulic control system and can induce additional costs and complexity. The OEMs are therefore forced to find a balance between efficiency and operators’ requirements to be competitive on the market. As a result, the currently adopted hydraulic architectures rely on purely hydraulic components to ensure robustness and functionality of the hydraulic functions at the expenses of limited performance and high-power consumption. In this dissertation, electro-hydraulic components are employed to induce improvements of the commercially available solutions while still complying with the operators’ demands and energy efficiency. To this end, this work tackles the weaknesses of traditional hydraulic architectures and it proposes alternative solutions to overcome their limitations. Two full-size wheel loaders are used to study the behavior of the existing system and later to implement the proposed variations. First, the development of an innovative ride control feature to improve the operators’ comfort is presented. Experimental results show the proposed strategy having better comfort performances compared to the purely hydraulic solution. Besides, the electro-hydraulic alternative does not demand the costly additional components the commercial solution instead requires. Second, this work faces the concern for efficiency of the present hydraulic architecture. The most diffused hydraulic system for the studied category of construction machines, commonly known as Load Sensing (LS), is sized to work most efficiently for elevated power conditions. During this work, an electronically controlled hydraulic supply unit and a flow-sharing method are used to reduce the hydraulic power consumption in the regions where the traditional LS system is less efficient. With a simple and cost-effective modification, the presented control strategy can induce an efficiency improvement over a wide range of operating conditions. Third, this dissertation proposes an operator-assistance feature to potentially increase the overall productivity and reduce the operator’s stress. An online estimation algorithm was developed to predict the payload weight of the transported material inside the bucket and the pushing forces during a typical loading cycle. The calculated payload mass provides an estimate of the user’s productivity level and it is extremely advantageous when the loaded material should reach a certain target weight. The developed estimation algorithm can also support an optimized autonomous excavation process, which can progressively limit the operator-machine interaction.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Andrea Vacca

Additional Committee Member 2

Jose M. Garcia Bravo

Additional Committee Member 3

Gregory M. Shaver

Additional Committee Member 4

Lizhi Shang

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