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Elematic extrusion technology: Automation, speed, concrete optimization

Gauges enable the E9 to distribute concrete mixes according to the finished hollow core slabs’ target engineering properties, meaning fewer overbuilt floor components and lower dead loads.
Gauges enable the E9 to distribute concrete mixes according to the finished hollow core slabs’ target engineering properties, meaning fewer overbuilt floor components and lower dead loads.

Chief among innovations at this year’s World of Concrete in Las Vegas and The Precast Show in Houston was a new generation of extruding equipment that represents a significant step forward for prestressed hollow-core slab flooring production.

Elematic USA unveiled an extruder engineered to produce plank with optimal volumes of concrete and offering the freedom to quickly and cost effectively set up beds for new slab heights. The new extrusion technology also yields a noticeable improvement in finished product appearance. 

The Extruder E9-1200e combines shear compaction for concrete savings and marked surface smoothness improvement; a modular design able to change thicknesses in half the setup time; and, a unique digital control system that opens the prestressed plant up to automation possibilities unheard of with previous technology. “We did a whole lot more than start with a clean sheet of paper on the E9,” says Elematic USA General Manager Matt Cherba. “We went around the world and talked to many different types of extruder owners to find out what they wanted in a machine, [and] also talked to a number of end users to find out what attributes of the finished product would suit their needs best. Only then did we grab a clean sheet of paper and start envisioning what eventually became the E9.”

MONEY SAVING FEATURES
Cost effectiveness is among the biggest benefits of the new extrusion technology, Elematic officials contend, pointing especially to shear compaction—a technique pioneered in previous generations of the company’s extruders, but perfected in the E9. These new “smart” extruders are able to adjust the parameters of their extruded output to the properties of the concrete mixes they receive. The result is a hollow core slab with the proper amount of concrete needed to achieve targeted design strength.

The Extruder E9-1200e combines shear compaction for concrete savings and marked surface smoothness improvement; Minimizing the consumption of excess concrete significantly lowers the weight and cost of a finished slab, putting precast flooring components more solidly in the range of affordability for a wider variety of construction projects. Workers in precast operations will also note improvements the E9 ushers. The model is engineered for greater ease of changeover between one hollow core slab height and another, while vibration-free technology makes it considerably quieter than previous generations of extruders.

“It’s a great difference in making a change on the production floor,” affirms Elematic Technical Director Lassi Jarvinen, a key player in the E9 design. “Previous extruders required a number of different molds to produce a full range of products. Now, all of the thicknesses the E9 [offers], from 160 mm (6.25 in.) thick to 500 mm (19.5 in.), can be produced with only two molds. That represents a more affordable investment in the amount of molds users must stock. This too will enhance cost competitiveness for the producers who own one.”

Elematic has also equipped the new model with a 12-in. touchscreen controller/display, linked to an industrial computer automation controller that opens up a range of automation options unavailable in previous extruders. The E9 can record production data as it extrudes slabs, and interfaces readily with MES, Elematic’s plant-wide manufacturing execution system. This opens up the possibility of plant-wide automated production, including software for enterprise resource planning (ELiPLAN), batching and mixing (ELiMIX), concrete distribution (ELiDIST), machinery positioning (ELiPOS) and tools for CAD integration and maturity control.

While the control options are getting broader for precast plants, the new generation of extruders is simultaneously making things easier for workers on the production floor. The user interface offers simple touchscreen control of most operating parameters, with all system presets memorized for easy control and quick recall when nozzle modules are being changed or a new product is being set up for production. Operators who forget a parameter or procedure can easily find answers by consulting the on-screen manual built into the E9’s interface.

PROMISING MARKET PROSPECTS
As far as architects and specifiers are concerned, features and productivity take a back seat to the ultimate criterion: the appearance quality of a finished hollow core component. The E9 creates a hollow core slab with smoother top surfaces than finishes the industry could previously offer, product engineers contend. “This promises to be a great step forward in acceptance,” adds Elematic’s Jarvinen. “The smoother surfaces simply look better, which makes them more acceptable as a visible design element in new buildings. By creating an exterior surface that is more aesthetically pleasing when it is exposed, we gain an opportunity to simplify the building process and lower the cost of new construction.”

Elematic has programmed the E9 as the smartest, most operator friendly extruder in the company’s history, loading it with technology and devices to lower noise, curtail vibration, accelerate slab height changeover, and optimize concrete consumption.
Elematic has programmed the E9 as the smartest, most operator friendly extruder in the company’s history, loading it with technology and devices to lower noise, curtail vibration, accelerate slab height changeover, and optimize concrete consumption.

He and Cherba note that potential precast specifiers aren’t the only ones excited about the advances in extrusion technology. World of Concrete and Precast Show attendees were equally intrigued about the possibilities the latest technical advances can bring, and “were quick to recognize the business opportunities that equipment like the E9 represents,” says Cherba. “These improvements are something the industry has had on its wish list for a long time. To finally see it on the show floors sparked considerable excitement.”

“It truly represents the beginning of a new era in the precast industry,” adds Jarvinen. “The precast industry is poised to grow, and extruders like the E9 are a critically important part of creating this new era of growth.” — Elematic Inc., 262/798-9777; www.elematic.com