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Molding mobility

inlandpipeInland Pipe builds a new flagship

By Don Marsh

Five years ago, Hanson Pipe & Products was in the middle of a capital investment program—unprecedented for a producer of any scale—yielding greatly upgraded heritage sites, plus a mammoth Winter Haven, Fla., greenfield operation (Concrete Products, September 2008). A similar level of commitment to modernized capacity, albeit at a single plant, was under way at what would become a Hanson Pipe & Products sister operation following the 2007 Heidelberg Cement-Hanson Plc merger and Lehigh Hanson Inc. formation.

Inland Pipe, part of the Lehigh Hanson Canada Region, runs one of the industry’s most automated, high-output plants—complete with robotics for cage handling, plus header and pallet handling or cleaning; an expansive moving floor system with 33 16- x 26-ft. cars; and, twin traveling buckets delivering concrete mixes to four production points. The cars transfer product to three, continuous-cure kiln tunnels, 195- to 250-ft. long.

As the newest addition to the Inland Spy Hill integrated aggregate, ready mixed and asphalt site in the southeast corner of Calgary, the pipe plant succeeds a 40-year-old property on the city’s opposite corner. At year’s end, production will wind down at the latter facility, which since the 1996 closing of an Edmonton satellite plant has been Inland Pipe’s workhorse for Alberta and Saskatchewan to the east. The Spy Hill property will mostly serve Alberta customers, backing up on occasion smaller Inland Pipe plants in Winnipeg and British Columbia.

The multi-phase, 140,000-sq.-ft. plant houses showcase installations for Besser Co. and Hawkeye Group, companies that long ago secured U.S. representation among global manufactured-concrete machinery players. Both have more recently reinforced their international presence through gains in product casting, handling and curing technology. The Inland Pipe plant has a Besser Advantage Bidirectional Machine for 12-in.- to 60-in.-diameter pipe, plus a HawkeyePedershaab KastMaster automated vibration machine—the first such model to operate in North America—for manholes, cones and a variety of companion structures or components suiting drainage or utility markets. Next up for Spy Hill delivery is a HawkeyePedershaab VUP Machine, for box culverts and large bore pipe up to 144-in. diameter.

“No other plant in the world has a comparable level of top robotics and automation offerings from multiple manufacturers,” says Lehigh Hanson’s Jamie Tremain, Sr. Operations Manager Region Canada. The new Calgary operation is the largest pipe and precast source between Toronto and Vancouver, he adds, and one of the top three properties of its kind under Lehigh Hanson. In contrast to the existing plant, whose production was taxed at market peaks, the new operation will enable Inland Pipe to adequately serve customers throughout Alberta.

Business wise, says Tremain, the province has seen a fall off in shipments the past two years, including from the northern energy market outpost, Fort McPherson; for producers throughout Canada, the drop in demand has not equaled that of counterparts in much of the United States.

Inland Pipe started Spy Hill production in mid-2010, deploying the BiDi and KastMaster machines, along with new 25- and 40-ton overhead cranes. Among equipment to be relocated from the existing site are a fourth products machine, wet cast molds, and 15- and 25-ton overhead cranes.

In the following pages, Concrete Products examines the producer’s impressive start.

Plant workhorse

Much Inland Pipe/Spy Hill volume originates at the Besser Advantage A-60 Bidirectional Pipe Machine, operating with twin MBK cage machines in an adjacent bay. The Advantage has automated cage placement, plus pallet and header transfer and cleaning devices. Besser Co. integrates it and the Bi-Rail Offbearer (center) with the plant’s moving floor system, whose 16- x 26-ft. cars accommodate from six (54- or 60-in.-diameter) to 50 (12-in.-diameter) pipe. The BiDi production line has two of the plant’s three kiln tunnels.

After the curing cycle, cars move to a robotic manipulator (below), which transports product to depalletizing and header ring removal stations, then to a staging area for deburring and quality tests. Pallets and headers are cleaned, stacked and oiled prior to their return to the Advantage injector and delivery devices. The finished-product robotics and automation technology at Inland Pipe was provided by Besser OMAG in Emden, Germany. A similar package was recently installed on the manhole line.


MCM Industrial Consultants oriented the batch plant for direct feed of the BiDi machine, and charging of two, 2-meter traveling buckets to serve the Kastmaster manhole and (forthcoming) VUP large diameter pipe machines. A second phase of rail installations in early 2012 will extend the buckets’ range to a wet cast production area and another Hawkeye pipe machine. It will be relocated from Inland Pipe’s existing Calgary plant, scheduled for decommissioning at year’s end.

British Columbia-based MCM equi-pped the new Spy Hill batch plant with 2.5- and 2-meter mixers from Haarup, which also manufactured the traveling buckets and rail lines. The mixers and a 400-ton, four-compartment aggregate bin have Hydronix moisture probes; all are tied into a Haarup Mixo Datamat 3000 controls package. Fully automated, the Mixo Datamat can prioritize which mixer needs the next batch, based on targeted machine output. The BiDi relies primarily on the larger mixer, while the 2-meter model covers the VUP, Kastmaster and companion lines. The batch plant will be able to charge the initial traveling bucket and its twin, to be installed in 2012.

The new pipe plant occupies reclaimed land at Inland Materials’ long-active quarry. “Live” aggregate is fed to the aggregate bin, whose weigh belt transfers fine and coarse aggregate to a skip hoist charging the mixers. Heated by forced air, the bin is sized for a half day’s production requirements. Cement is transferred by screw conveyor from twin, 100-ton silos.


Accustomed to curing with boiler-generated steam at its existing Calgary plant, Inland Pipe sought an alternative method at Spy Hill for production flexibility and energy efficiency. HawkeyePedershaab bid a turnkey curing system, incorporating twin tunnels for the BiDi machine output, with a third tunnel for the Kastmaster and VUP machine products. Lined with 4-in.-thick insulated, sandwich wall panels, each tunnel draws heat from a Johnson SP7000 CurePak of 7 million Btu/hour output.

Johnson Gas recommended a double-door interlock system, which positions each kiln tunnel-bound car in an intermediate zone such that loss of treated air is minimized with the constant door opening and closing. The tunnels have four air circulators along their lower levels. They capture cooler air and circulate it toward the kiln ceiling; in turn, rising heat encounters downward pressure. An attendant mixing motion for cooler and warmer air results in a uniform temperature across the 16- x 26-ft. car. HawkeyePedershaab designed the tunnels so that the temperature is highest toward the exit doors. The kiln temperature can be widely varied for either continuous or batch-style curing.

Manholes, box culverts

A key participant in Hanson Pipe & Precast’s capital program, Hawkeye Group tooled a new Kastmaster 150/200 automated vibration machine for the company’s (then-future) Lehigh Hanson sister operation, Inland Pipe. With molding capability up to 1.5-meter diameter and 2-meter height, the Kastmaster equips the Spy Hill plant for a full range of manhole, riser, cone and flat top products, along with elliptical, arch and flat bed pipe, box shapes and flared ends.

A dual shuttle system organizes material and product flow to and from the Kastmaster production station. Engineered for one-man operation—with the machine operator primarily placing reinforcement cages or hoops—it has automated pallet magazine loading and header feeding. In lieu of overhead crane handling, the machine has a manipulator and transporter for product demolding and transfer to moving floor cars.

In addition to the Kastmaster and tunnel curing system, Hawkeye Group has supplied two quality control devices: one for load testing, the other (shown here) for hydrostatic testing of up to three pipes at a time. The manufacturer is preparing for early-2012 delivery of a HawkeyePedershaab VUP Machine, to produce large pipe up to 144-in. diameter, and box culverts up to 12 x 10 ft.