Posted on August 15, 2019
Rising global economies and population have caused the construction industry to grow at a rapid pace. In turn, this has made cement as vital and valuable as oil, especially since this common building material is admirably versatile, and is widely used for constructing infrastructure, bridges, roads, etc.
Consider this: the concrete market has experienced a steady growth in the US since 2011. The production of concrete amounted to about 98 million metric tons in 2017, with predictions of further increments.
This expansion is largely fueled by the integration of technology into the concrete industry, leading to the development of special materials and advanced processes – designed to meet the growing need in an eco-friendly way.
Sustainability is an important factor that we need to consider when building any infrastructure. The current focus of the industry is on ensuring that new structures are made of renewable resources, have long service lives, and cause low emissions of pollutants like CO2.
With technological advancements spreading like wildfire, concrete producers need to invest in technology to stay on top of this competitive industry. Not only does it help them stand out from other contractors and producers, but also provides increased sustainability and efficiency to your products.
Here is a look at some of the best technological developments in the world of concrete.
Cement, a key component of concrete, has a massive carbon footprint. Approximately, 8% of the total man-made CO2 is released into the atmosphere by the cement industry. Thankfully, many concrete manufacturers are taking steps to combat this problem, especially during the mixing and production of concrete.
Work is also being done to produce a kind of concrete that has higher longevity, and requires minimal maintenance - thereby conserving energy. This would lead to reduced emissions, which is a must considering our global climate changes.
Good quality concrete is the main component of lasting, or quality, infrastructure.
Despite its benefits and ease of use, concrete – no matter the quality – does require frequent repairs. This brings forth the question; what if concrete could self-heal?
The idea isn’t half as crazy as it sounds – ancient Romans used this kind of concrete almost two millennia ago, and modern scientists are trying to replicate their ways. The approaches being worked on include the use of limestone producing fungi, and bacteria.
Electronically Conductive Concrete
Improved electronic conduction in concrete can be very beneficial to roads, and other surfaces during certain weather conditions such as snow, and icy showers. Certain airports around the world are testing this type of heated concrete, to see how it makes runway conditions better during winters.
The truly mind-blowing part is that this type of concrete can be managed through a smartphone app, which continuously records its performance and quality!
Producers are now providing customers with real-time data regarding production, and expected delivery times. GPS sensors on delivery trucks allow you to see the exact instance when a load of concrete is dispatched, its current location, and even its pouring status.
This way, concrete workers can save the time they used to waste on manual updating, and spend it more productively.
Additionally, the process of accounting, quality control recording, and even inventory management have all been automated, and uploads are done on the cloud.
Sensors and strength gauges are beginning to change how we carry out curing, and the whole concrete life cycle, in general.
The embedded sensors on mixing equipment can keep activity logs, and even monitor the machines for any maintenance issues. Once a certain threshold is reached, be it overheating problems, or disrupted mixing rate, alerts are immediately sent out. This allows the issue to be fixed beforehand, preventing any delays once a project has started.
Many automatic, controlled machine features have now been merged with robotic technology, and autonomous control.
SAM (Semi-Automated Mason) is one such example; this is a brick laying robot that works alongside masons to increase the efficiency of the overall project, and reduce physical strain on the workers.
Built Robotics’ autonomous track loader is another such robot – this robot can make its way around construction sites through LIDAR, GPS, and digital files, cutting and filing as required.
Robotic concrete 3D printers are also being used to automate concrete production to a certain extent. These machines are mobile, allowing easy transportation to various sites. The most remarkable fact about robotic concrete 3D printers is that they can be used to build small houses in less than a day!
Converting the architect, and designer’s wildest ideas into a structure can prove to be rather tedious. Proper representation of ideas can only be done using software and tools that support 2D workflows, and 3D modeling capabilities.
This type of technology not only reduces labor costs, but also produces less waste for the environment; an important consideration, especially since the concrete industry is looking to become eco-friendly.
Research and testing is currently being done to introduce solar roadways to cities, especially where daytime hours are longer.
As technology improves, costs are expected to decrease, and it is predicted that solar roads could pay for themselves in well within 15 years!
Experts also believe that a 600-mile solar road will be able to generate enough power to light up a town of 5,000 people.
Other smart roads that are currently in the research and development phase include; energy-reducing roads, glow in the dark roadways, and lanes with embedded magnetic fields that would be able to charge electric cars as they speed down the roads.