Concrete mix designs are a careful balance of learning, testing and compliance. In this blog, we discuss three ways automation can help construction materials producers enhance the process.
A perfect concrete mix design makes or breaks the integrity of an infrastructure.
By itself, however, the mix design process is highly variable and includes many moving parts and ingredients. Let’s look at how it works.
Concrete Mix Design Process: How It Works
Before we get into how automation can help, let’s take a high-level look at a material producer’s general approach to concrete mix design.
Data is key. That’s why the first step in the process is pulling information about raw materials and ingredients, which include:
- Fine aggregates
- Coarse aggregates
With context about the properties of these ingredients in mind, the producer can develop the mix design. According to the ACI method, the steps include:
- Select an appropriate slump value
- Choose maximum size of aggregate
- Estimate mixing water and air content
- Select water-cement (or cementitious material) ratio
- Calculate cement content
- Estimate coarse aggregate content
- Estimate fine aggregate content
- Adjust for aggregate moisture
- Adjust trial batch
The process is involved. Throughout it the producer must consider consistency, workability, durability and strength of the final concrete product.
Consistency is important because you need to know that what you designed works every time. Workability is important as technicians pour and work with the concrete in the field. Durability and strength are important for the overall integrity of the structure it’s used in.
Ultimately, for a construction project to move forward, the concrete mix design (and its execution) needs to be perfect.
Which brings us to testing.
Unfortunately, the concrete mix design process is highly vulnerable to error and bias. From initial data collection to design to testing, human hands have to intervene, which means slower timelines and potential for mistakes.
Luckily, automation can solve these problems and help producers manage consistency, workability, durability and strength throughout the QC lifestyle.
3 Ways Automation Improves the Concrete Mix Design Process
#1. Innovate More Mix Designs
Automation, by definition, removes error-prone, manual processes from concrete mix design.
These manual tasks include:
- Pulling data on raw materials
- Identifying specimens before the test
- Testing itself
- Results recording (in the field and the lab)
- Data transfer and analysis
These are a huge time-suck for technical resources. But every single one can be automated through an integrated, cloud-based CMT platform. This allows you to go paperless in the field and the lab, integrate testing machines with your LIMS, and eliminate human-induced errors like redundant handwriting, retyping and data entry.
Ultimately, when you replace these error-prone, manual processes with automation, you have more time to do value-add activities. In the context of mix design, materials producers can shift their technical resources’ focus from redundant tasks to innovating mix designs and improving product performance, quality and consistency.
And because the cloud-based platform stores data forever, you now have easy access to historical trends, helping you analyze long-term consistency and improve performance over time.
#2. Deliver Products On Time, On Spec
An automated process also results in more accurate and transparent data.
This is because everything a producer needs to know about concrete specimens and results is securely stored in the cloud-based platform.
When a cylinder is scanned at the automatic, integrated testing machine, sample data is pre-loaded into the machine before a test, preventing premature destruction and other errors. Then, results automatically flow from the machine back to the cloud database – and the stakeholders who need to approve quality and strength reports in order to move projects or designs along.
Without the risk of human error or bias, materials producers are able to stay compliant with client-orders, engineering specs and industry standards. They can access critical testing information in seconds and generate reports, analyze trends and export data to key stakeholders.
This level of traceability and security allows producers to defend mix designs, backed by unalterable, original test data that’s stored forever.
#3. Integrate with Other Processes
Finally, automation enables a fully integrated process. With a cloud-based CMT platform at the center, producers can connect all their favorite tools, including testing machines, LIMS and other third-party software.
This enhances the overall mix design process because everything now seamlessly flows together. And you don’t have to move away from the tools you already know and love. Instead, everything works together in one ecosystem. This benefit feeds back into the first two, allowing you to innovate and deliver on your products even more efficiently and effectively.
The construction materials mix design process is complex, especially when it’s manual. But you can perfect your concrete product by automating the testing process, from sample creation to final results and communication.
Drive accuracy and transparency in your concrete mix design workflows with ForneyVault. Book a demo today.