An Industry Celebration

Glimpsing the future of concrete production
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The 2019 edition set a new attendance watermark for the bauma trade fair. PHOTOS: Rick Yelton

bauma 2019 was a week-long carnival of equipment, experiences, and innovations. More than 620,000 visitors from 200-plus countries trekked the 150 acres that comprise the world’s leading trade fair for construction or building material machinery, equipment and vehicles. According to organizer Messe München, this edition generated the best results in the exhibition’s 65-year history.

While enjoying the hoopla, beer, and pretzels, attendees of the triennial event in Munich had a more serious purpose. They were on the hunt to discover the newest technology and equipment updates. bauma 2019 focused on the European construction market. But North American contractors and producers benefit as many manufacturers quickly introduce their innovations globally. And there was a lot of innovation on display.

WHAT’S TRENDING

The unveiling of new technology began in January 2019. Organizers announced the nominees of the international bauma Innovation Award. The competition, in its 12th iteration, is a joint initiative between bauma and several German trade associations. The nominees were primarily from bauma’s heavy equipment and civil construction exhibitors, but two winners offer a view of future methods and practice.

In the product category, Max Bögl Stiftung & Co. KG, a large German contractor who self-performs projects using precast elements, was recognized for its Hybrid Towers concept, with a mobile production plant to cast and finish windmill segments for electric generation. The concept includes a concrete plant, water treatment system and modern concrete milling system. A second award in the research category was presented to University of Munich for its efforts to introduce sensors and monitors into the entire construction process. (To review the entire list of nominees and winners, visit www.bauma-innovationspreis.de/en/winners/nominees-2019.html.)

The bauma Innovation Award program, plus the forums and presentations at the show, provide insights on the trends affecting our industry. Four trends will affect North American concrete production. They are electrification; the use of data to increase construction productivity and digitalization; incorporation of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data into the construction process; and, new precast processes focused on residential construction.

BATTERIES RULE

The global interest to reduce carbon emissions is affecting how construction equipment is powered. European equipment manufacturers are looking for mechanical solutions that reduce fossil fuel usage. Electronification, the conversion of a machine to use electrical power, is moving beyond hybridization of power trains. Several major equipment manufacturers unveiled production model that rely entirely on electric power.

Contractor and producer interest in equipment that generates zero emissions has been fueled by the increase of urban regulations. The Wacker Neuson Group unveiled the DW15e electrically operated wheel dumper and two completely electric mini-excavators that provide alternatives to conventional diesel-powered machines when working in areas sensitive to sound and emissions. At a press conference, Wacker Sales Director Alexander Greschner said that contractors can perform their normal operations without loss of productivity and free of emissions. The manufacturer’s zero-emission series includes a wheel loader, track and wheel dumper and the two new mini-excavators, along with battery-powered rammer, plates and, in future, internal vibrator systems for concrete consolidation.

While not entirely operated by electricity, CIFA showcased its current version Energya electric hybrid concrete delivery equipment. They tout that their rear discharge concrete mixer, concrete pump, and shotcrete sprayer delivers greater fuel efficiency and less emissions. The mixer was unveiled three years ago and continues to be upgraded in performance.

Producers using the Energya 9 mixer can expect up to a 30 percent equivalent fuel savings under typical operating conditions. The chassis engine can be shut off during drum loading at the batch plant, unloading at the job site, and back in the yard. Electric power is used for drum rotation and is driven by an electric induction motor fueled by a lithium ion battery. Charging times vary depending on method: An hour using high speed plug-in or about eight hours from any 220v industrial outlet.

Producers who have used the Energya 9 report an additional operational benefit. The unit is much quieter during the batching and unloading process. This allows easier communication and increased job safety.

CONNECTING THE WORK SITE

Digitization is the process of changing data from analog to digital form. When this transformation is successful, the outcome isn’t any different than its original form but provides greater transfer of data. Paperless receipts for concrete deliveries are a good example of the concept.

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bauma visitors had a chance to view some of the 150 acres of exhibits from the Wacker outdoor booth, located in the North exhibit field.

At bauma 2019, several non-traditional players offered new technologies to use digitization to bring about greater job sight efficiency. PERI, a formwork manufacturer, now offers a concrete maturity monitoring system. Its InSite Construction technology measures fresh concrete’s consistency and temperature while in the form. The system provides guidance on formwork pressure and distribution of the concrete in the formwork during placement.

Doka, also a formwork manufacturer, unveiled a mobile app designed to optimize the entire concrete order and delivery process. The Smart-Pouring system monitors key order details such as required compressive strength, delivery time, delivery site, and placement method. The app follows the order through batching into the assigned concrete truck. The system then monitors the delivery using Bluetooth beacons to ensure that the concrete ordered is placed in the correct location.

Giatec, a Toronto-based provider of concrete quality control technology, upped the concept of digitization with its unveiling of Roxi. Using a data-mining approach called machine mining, this software detects anomalies at various stages of the concrete life-cycle. Roxi was built specifically for Giatec’s SmartRock wireless concrete sensor as it compares current sensor conditions to past measurements stored in the Giatec database. Roxi can detect any subtle variance from what should be the norm. The technology alerts users of a potential problem during production, delivery, placement, and hardening at a speed that is nearly impossible for humans.

Digitization has also improved the operation of truck cranes. Palfinger, an Austrian manufacturer of lifting devices unveiled their digital philosophy at bauma 2019. Their Smart Boom Control is a digital boom tip controller for loader cranes. A specially manufacturer-developed electronic control system instantly calculates the necessary movement combination using its position and pressure sensors. The software and operator work as a team to comply with equipment parameters as provided in an operating manual load chart. Palfinger also added a second level of digitization with an enhanced stability control system feature. HPSC-Plus LOAD is a load detection system that uses inclination as an additional parameter for stability.

PRECAST COMING HOME

A fourth bauma 2019 takeaway was the interest in developing precast concrete processes to create affordable, resilient housing. RATEC, celebrating its 25th anniversary, showcased a new mold used for casting modular concrete rooms. The mold’s inner core and outer formwall can be quickly adjusted to create a different room size. The system was created in response to a customer’s request to build affordable housing units.

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bauma 2019’s carnival experience included its own Selfie Tower. Brave attendees were elevated up 300 feet to an open platform overlooking much of the 150 acres of equipment and activities.

Vollert introduced the Motus Construction system. It allows designers to create earthquake-resistant construction using hollow-core slabs. In the Motus system, producers wet cast slabs on pallets. Vollert engineers have adopted a unique casting production approach, where tensioning and additional reinforcements, cross-connectors, coupling elements, and recessed placeholders are easily installed on the pallet. Each unit is made to measure—eliminating production wastes associated with traditional prestressed concrete fabrication.

Another innovative launch to meet the demand for affordable housing was by the Umdasch Group Ventures. This two-year old venture capital company, of which Doka is an investor, plans to bring several innovations for commercial and residential construction. Neulandt, the group’s concept of a mobile precast factory, is one of their first initiatives. The factory system is specifically designed to produce affordable concrete housing. The entire production process fits under a two-story fabric mobile structure that’s about the size of a football field. Its compact size is the result of the use of butterfly formwork technology that allows easy form prep, casting and stripping at different work stations. Neulandt’s production concept enables easy adjustments for openings while offering cost-effective production opportunities.

Rick Yelton is a veteran journalist covering concrete construction and production for more than 25 years, primarily with Hanley Wood, and is now Editor at Large for Informa Exhibitions’ World of Concrete. He can be reached at [email protected].