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Concrete progress: people and machines adapt to changes in cement

Today’s construction market is as challenging as it is interesting for the Middle East’s concrete players, and the manufacturers that adopt proactive strategies today are most likely to thrive in the longer term

The S38SX Reptor, a truck-mounted concrete pump, has been redesigned to deliver high project flexibility.
The S38SX Reptor, a truck-mounted concrete pump, has been redesigned to deliver high project flexibility.

Concrete is the lifeblood of the Middle East’s construction sector. Though it comes in many forms, the grey matter has provided the foundations upon which the vast majority of regional projects have been developed, both figuratively and literally.

Concrete is the lifeblood of the Middle East’s construction sector. Though it comes in many forms, the grey matter has provided the foundations upon which the vast majority of regional projects have been developed, both figuratively and literally.

Yet despite the essential nature of this product and its regional ubiquity, the Middle East’s concrete sector is anything but straightforward.

Whether you are talking about readymix suppliers, precast providers, chemical manufacturers, or repair specialists, this vital industry is currently facing a whole host of challenges.

Gulf States have been forced to revise their national budgets in line with reduced oil revenues. In turn, market liquidity has fallen, margins have tightened, and project-related uncertainty has increased significantly.

This situation is by no means ideal, but it is encouraging to note that several of the Middle East’s most proactive concrete players have refused to become browbeaten by a challenging market, choosing instead to innovate and adapt to their surroundings.

Nevertheless, the companies that take ownership of the factors that are within their control are likely to be the ones best placed to reap rewards when the market recovers.

The global readymix concrete market is expected to reach $954.7bn by 2024, according to a new report by Grand View Research. As of 2015, the size of the market was valued at $492.2bn, and the Middle East and Africa region accounted for a 10.1% global share.

The region will continue to witness a rise construction and infrastructure activities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait as rapid population expansion forces the hand of governments. There are urgent demands for residential and infrastructural projects in Saudi Arabia, where, for example, the

transport pressures on the city of Riyadh have forced the government to ringfence funding for several large-scale construction projects.

In the meantime, while the pace of projects remains slower than it has been at other times in the recent past, one way in which those in the concrete industry can adapt and help themselves is by making sure that they have the right equipment to get their project work they have done, and to keep it profitable.

In March this year, for example. Schwing Stetter introduced the S38SX Reptor, a truck-mounted concrete pump with a boom that the manufacturer claims redefines the 30m class across a wide range of applications.

Equipped with more practical, wider boom opening angles and high manoeuvrability, the result of the machine is greater flexibility on site, which together with Schwing’s proven concrete pump, makes for a great product.

Contractors that use truck-mounted concrete pumps on industrial and commercial developments needs solutions that work well in a small space and under difficult conditions, and Schwing went back to the drawing board with the S38SX Reptor to meet these needs.

Under confined working conditions, it is proceeds that the more flexible and ergonomic the boom positioning, the more straightforward the machine is in use, and the faster and safer challenging concreting can be mastered.

“During the product development we maintained a close dialogue with our customers to identify the practical requirements of jobsite situations,” said Jost Amersdorffer, sales manager at Schwing.

“The S38SX Reptor combines maximum versatility with Schwing’s typical efficiency and reliability. The feedback from our customers confirms that we are right with this concept.”

Mounted on a 6x4 chassis with a 4,500 mm wheelbase, an operating weight of under 26 tonnes can be realised, while an 8x4 chassis with an identical wheelbase enables higher payloads while achieving an even smaller turning circle.

The Super-X outriggers of the S38SX Reptor meanwhile deliver stability within a low space requirement and, in conjunction with an 8x4 chassis mounted on a larger 5,150mm wheelbase, allows for the use of the P2525 long-stroke pump kit with 2.50m delivery cylinders.

This combination requires 20% fewer strokes than would otherwise be the case for this class of pump kit. In conjunction with the open-circuit hydraulic system, this low stroking rate decreases wear and operating costs.

Wirtgen is giving the concrete industry a run for its money with the TCM 180 texture curing machine that aims to make the concrete curing process easier and smoother, thanks to a modular design for working widths between 4m and 18m, and an intuitive user interface.

Self-propelled curing units, such as the TCM 180, ensure the success of professionally cured concrete pavements by following in the wake of slipform concrete pavers and applying a broom mounted at the front of the machine to the surface of the concrete to texture it.

The texturing process is required to obtain the desired amount of skid resistance, and it is imperative that this process be carried out soon after the surface has been laid, before drying can cause the concrete to become non-plastic, leading to cracking under tension.

Wirtgen’s self-propelled curing units also use a spraying system to subsequently apply a dispersion to any fresh concrete surface to prevent it drying out prematurely.

The Tier 3TCM 180 also equips an operator’s console with a number of service and control functions to optimise the work process. This allowed the curing unit to be operated intuitively, in much just the same way as the SP 90 and SP 60 series slipform pavers.

Wirtgen has also enlarged its range of different surface textures to cater to the diverse requirements of its customers around the world. In the Middle East, where drying out is a particular issue, the TCM 180’s automated processes are particularly useful.

In addition to transverse and longitudinal brooming and spraying, a diagonal finish will also be possible in the near future.

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