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Setting the pace: trends and development in cement

PMV takes a look at the concrete equipment companies securing big wins and delivering major savings and efficiency boosts to contractors

Atlas Copco’s power trowels, which are used to apply a smooth finish to concrete slabs, are the safest in the market, according to the equipment manufacturer.
Atlas Copco’s power trowels, which are used to apply a smooth finish to concrete slabs, are the safest in the market, according to the equipment manufacturer.

The situation in the concrete segment is not as gloomy as one might expect, as despite the onset of low global oil prices, the end of 2015 continued to see healthy levels of activity for many of the region’s largest concrete suppliers — and this buoyancy is reflecting on equipment demand.

One paragon of this optimism is Sanooj Alam, regional product manager for Atlas Copco Construction Tools, who notes: “Wherever concrete is poured, concrete equipment is inevitable. Infrastructure development and construction projects in the region have resulted in a significant growth in the demand for our range of concrete products.”

In Atlas Copco’s case, these products include a range of concrete vibrating and surfacing tools, with the hottest selling items being its mechanical and electric pokers.

And not by coincidence, as Alam notes: “We have invested heavily in the development of these product lines and the result of that is an offering which is not only offering top performance, but products which are very safe and ergonomic to use. For example, in the concrete surfacing segment, our power trowel range is the safest in the market. The in-built QuickStop feature automatically stops the machine as soon as the operator leaves the handle. This feature is unique in the market, and is highly appreciated by the operators.”

The top manufacturers of the major concrete batching and distribution equipment are also faring well, with plenty of mega projects maintaining demand for top product.

The Jeddah Tower, for example is demanding much from Schwing Stetter as it rises towards its eventual height of 1km, with the Saudi Binladin Group employing two dedicated Stetter HN 3.0 batching plants on site, as well as four Schwing SP 8800 D pumps and five Schwing concrete placing booms: three SPB 35 and two SPB 30 units.

Damac Towers in Dubai, while not the height of the Kingdom Tower, are vast and demanding the use of four Putzmeister BSA 1400 D units. Finally, in another deal, Liebherr-Betonpumpen delivered of 12 units of 50M5 XXT truck-mounted concrete pumps with 50m-long booms to the Manaseer Group in Jordan in the largest individual order for the Liebherr concrete pump division.

Indeed, there is little doubt that such projects and manufacturers are pushing concrete technology to its limits, but by no means do they hold a monopoly on innovation.

At the last edition of the Middle East Concrete exhibition, for instance, Dubai-based Consent bought a concrete block machine for $2.7m from Techmatik. The brand’s SHP 5000 PRO C machine was specifically chosen for its low energy consumption and noise pollution.

While such eco-awareness and sensitivity are growing, they are not the norm, and so such examples should be warmly commended.

With its pokers, Atlas Copco has observed similar trends, as Alam notes: “One trend we have observed is a shift to electrical pokers. Traditionally mechanical pokers, where an engine drives a single poker, were more commonly used in Middle East markets.

“However, advances have made electrical pokers not only more efficient, but easier to use and more environmentally friendly. Now one frequency convertor can be used to drive several electrical pokers, which are also more powerful and help get the job done faster, and key contractors have already made this shift.”

In a further boost to both the total cost of ownership of Atlas Copco’s pokers, Alam notes that in contrast to ‘use and throw’ pokers designed with short life, all of its pokers’ major components are repairable and/or replaceable. Low hand arm vibration (HAV) grips also make Atlas Copco’s products more operator friendly.

Another trend that Alam has noticed is the rise in popularity of using of vibrating screed beams for surface finishing. Indeed, Atlas Copco’s product have recently been used in the apron works of a major airport expansion project in the region, and a modular screed beam (adjustable in length) was also used for expansion works on a sea port in the UAE.

As the region’s existing concrete fatigues, and particularly where corroded concrete arises as a result of steel reinforcement being exposed to aggressive salts in Gulf substrates, the concrete aftermarket is also on the rise.

Aquajet Systems, a Swedish company, is supplying a tracked, remote-controlled robot called the Aqua Cutter 410A, which uses a high-pressure jet of water to hydro-demolish corroded concrete for subsequent renovation.

In one case study, an Aqua Cutter 410A was used to remove 750 tonnes of badly corroded concrete over the course of just 100 days.

Aiding and assisting both construction and deconstruction are technologies and tools that allow for non-destructive efficient testing, like Doka’s Concremote, a sensor able to measure concrete’s compressive strength and durability.

Atlas Copco also has some future tech on the way in the form of a portable handy rebar cutting and bending machine, the ‘KvikBend’, and automatic rebar tier, the ‘Knut 39’. It is also introducing a new laser screed, the RLS23, which can automatically adjust to a pre-set level with laser precision for extreme accuracy.

What is evident is the concrete remains not just big business, but a serious focus of investment and innovation for the companies that supply thee sector, even in lean times.

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