A boom too far?
There’s an array of concrete placement solutions on offer for high-rise projects. New solutions and applications are always emerging, but what stands out in all these is the boom concrete pump. Irrespective of height, the boom placers are well engineered to pump the appropriate volumes of concrete at right pressure. Surprisingly, in a country so vast where high-rises are the norm, there are only two main (and prominent) companies that make boom concrete pumps. Of course, this is not to say there are no local and smaller players. But, one must understand, that technology does play a critical role here. And most of these are better provided by (mainly) German companies.
Since concrete placing is an art and one that defies human reach, boom concrete placers can do the job where human reach is difficult. VG Sakthikumar, MD, SCHWING Stetter Sales and Services Private Limited, and Chairman of Mechanisation Committee, Builders Association of India, who makes four models of boom pumps (S17, S20, S36X and S43 SX), says, “The challenge in India is that the quality of raw materials varies from place to place which has a direct influence on the wear and tear of the concrete pump parts and also the total operating costs. The concrete quality also has an influence on the overall performance of the pump. We have developed special wear resistant parts for special areas where the wear and tear is very high. Similarly, our twin circuit system has an option which helps the customer in case of pumping stiff concrete due to the design of the concrete itself. We also offer super wear resistant pipes which to give a longer lifetime and to minimise the replacement time, thereby increasing the productivity of the pump.”
The second company that is a pioneer of research and development in concrete pumping technology is Putzmeister. Besides offering the latest and most comprehensive range of concreting solutions, the company has achieved landmarks in both vertical and horizontal pumping technologies. Wilfried Theissen, Managing Director, Putzmeister Concrete Machines Pvt. Ltd, says that not only does Putzmeister produce the most technologically advanced machines, but it also manufactures one of the world’s largest working concrete machines, the M 70. “There is overwhelming evidence of the reach of the German concrete pump manufacturer, as witness the classic case of the employment of its equipment at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.” Constructing the world’s tallest building would well-nigh have been impossible without concrete being pumped vertically to a record height of 601m by Putzmeister’s super high pressure concrete pump. Putzmeister machines have also set other records in terms of long-distance concrete conveying (over 2015m) at the Le Refrain construction project in France, and for the longest continuous pour in America.
Change in the Indian mindset
What has changed for the manufacturers is that awareness among the contractors is changing the trends of cheapest product and instead demanding value for money. This, in turn, is compelling manufacturers to put in extra efforts in their R&D cells and offer better quality equipment.
There is a queer kind of pressure on everyone involved in the supply chain. Contractors have to finish their projects within the stipulated time and developers are under immense pressure of new levies that will soon be upon them if they do not complete projects on time. Such a situation is compelling everyone to adopt new types of equipment and better materials.
In keeping with the industry emphasis on products that cater to market requirements like less noise, less fuel consumption, better ergonomics and user friendliness, Putzmeister introduced its new generation boom pump M36-4 NG. Built using aluminium and high-grade lightweight steel to reduce the weight by more than two tons the boom pumps come equipped with “Big Mouth” delivery cylinders of 230mm diameter and a reduced hydraulic tank capacity. The company’s truck mounted boom pumps offer great reserves of power, suitability to the most extreme conditions, reduction in mechanical wear and ensure a greater level of operational availability.
Last year, Schwing Stetter launched “EASY system” which allows the customer to use the concrete pump in a restricted area. Sakthikumar says, “A normal operation involves extension of all the four outriggers to stabilise the equipment. However, the customer has the option of using only two outriggers and stabilising the boom in a space which is only and still able to operate the boom with a coverage area of 141 degrees. This system is very advantageous in tight spaces.”
Going green and environmental responsibility are universally accepted concepts. Fuel efficiency comes first. Also, the Germans are very particular about this. And they fully support their subsidiaries to make sure that they also introduce environment-friendly products without compromising on quality, productivity, and minimum downtime.
In terms of reducing the boom fatigue for longer service life of the pump, Schwing Stetter uses special high tensile steel for building the booms. The technology of building the boom ensures transfer of stress in the boom does not affect the long term performance of the booms. “The proportional valves used for the boom movement balances the load on the turret which thereby reduces the fatigue and increases the longevity of the components. This also helps precise boom movements and is supported by the pulsar valves. In Schwing pumps, the pipelines are rooted on the neutral axis of the boom to avoid stress and cracks at the pipe joints due to the bouncing action during the pumping. The twin circuit also helps in reducing the boom bouncing and in smooth pumping operation,” says Sakthikumar.
Theissen says, “Our pumps have been deployed at prestigious projects including metro rail, and expansion and modernisation of international airports at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The equipment also supports the construction of power plants, hydroelectric projects, LNG tanks, refineries, ports, roads and bridges. From high rise concrete pumping to the horizontal pumping of 320m at Palais Royal project, Mumbai, the list of infrastructural achievements for Putzmeister is never ending.”
Concrete pump designers face many challenges because concrete is heavy, viscous, abrasive, contains pieces of hard rock, and solidifies if not kept moving. This is more the reason why vendors need to support customers with the best products, services and application technologies.