Desert Storm

Published 7/3 at 16:29

World of Concrete 2019 offered plenty of product news and intrigue about the industry’s long term health. PDi’s editor Jim Parsons reports.

Blustery winds dominated the opening days of World of Concrete 2019, reflective of the whirlwind of activity at what organisers say was the largest show in more than a decade, and, perhaps, a portent of the uncertainty that awaits North American’s construction industry in the coming months. To be sure, optimism was pervasive among the more than 1,500 exhibitors and 60,511 attendees, even if the wintertime Las Vegas temperatures offered only slight relief from the snowy, polar vortex conditions dominating other parts of the U.S. 

“We’re upbeat about the construction market in North America and globally for this year, and 2020 too,” observed Henric Andersson, president of Husqvarna’s Construction Division, which had its largest new product roll out in several years. Though Andersson admits some ‘dark clouds’ loom in the form of tariff and trade issues, he believes the foundations are strong. Those sentiments were echoed by Avi Kahn, president and chief executive of Hilti North America, which subsequently reported a 10.4% increase in sales during 2018. “We continue to invest in productivity features, in recognition of the skilled labour shortage,” Kahn said.

There were reminders that a nearly decade long construction boom in the U.S. may finally be losing some momentum. Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. became the latest major construction equipment manufacturer to pull back profit estimates for the coming year, a move that could threaten its acquisition of demolition attachment makers Genesis and Paladin which was announced last August. On the other hand, market uncertainty hasn’t prevented other types of acquisitions from going forward. Kinshofer celebrated World of Concrete by finalising its acquisition of Hammer srl of Italy. North America sales manager Dany Martin explained that along with rounding out Kinshofer’s tools portfolio, the acquisition is a natural fit between the two companies. “They have the same approach to quality, and offer every feature that our customers want.” Martin added that while the new hammers may not be least expensive on the market, “We can prove that they’re worth it.”

Among the nearly 260 first time World of Concrete exhibitors was Avant Tecno USA, Inc., the North American branch of the Finnish compact equipment maker. President Jukka Kytomaki explained that after seven years in the U.S., the company is ready to raise its profile in the demolition market, with innovations such as a cab design that places the driver at the front of the frame, thereby increasing lifting capacity, stability, and visibility. “We see a huge potential in the U.S. market,” Kytomaki said. “We offer lighter machines that can do the same job as heavier models, plus the availability of more than 200 attachments.”


Abundant automation

Appropriately for its milestone size, World of Concrete 2019 showcased a number of major project announcements. Brokk made its largest ever North America product launch with a four model upgrade to its line of remote control demolition machines. Three machines are electric powered: the 1.6t Model 170, the 2t Model 200, and the 3t Model 300. The largest new entry, the 5t Model 520 diesel, replaces Brokk’s Model 400. All incorporate design improvements such as hardened components and fewer internal electrical connections, which the company says contribute to increased impact power and operational reliability, as well as greater project versatility.

Topping, or in this case, tipping it, was Brokk’s announcement of its new eight model BHB hammer line. These range from the 50kg BHB 55 breaker for the compact Model 60, all the way up to the 700kg BHB 705 for the recently introduced Model 500 and Model 520D. As with the Brokk machines themselves, the series features a high power to weight ratio, with lightweight hammer bodies machined from a solid casting, eliminating side and through bolts, along with side plates found on many other hammer designs.  “The combination of upgraded demolition robots and custom hammers puts more power in smaller packages,” said Peter Bigwood, vice president of Brokk, Inc. “Now you have a 2t machine in the Brokk 200 ideally matched with hammer that might otherwise require the power of a 3t machine.” 

Sharing Brokk’s spotlight was its hydrodemolition specialist company, Aquajet Systems, which debuted its compact Ergo System for small jobs and confined spaces. Consisting of a 4.2kW controller unit and power head that manipulates a high pressure lance from a horizontal or vertical frame, Ergo System exerts 1,000N of reaction force which is approximately half that of Aquajet’s largest hydrodemolition robot. “Ergo also eliminates the safety hazards of hand lances, while also providing more consistent concrete removal depths,” Bigwood said, noting growing U.S. interest in hydrodemolition has helped Aquajet double its sales over the past two years. “Aquajet products have brought a higher level of sophistication to water demolition.” 

Complementing this trend, Conjet AB released a new graphical user interface that simplifies operation of its Conjet 7 series robots. Integrated into both the machine and its remote control unit, the new interface complements more intuitive controls with instant feedback on specific parameters, allowing operators to optimize energy and water use as operational requirements change during the course of a job. The theme of automation continued at Hilti’s busy outdoor display area with the debut of its DST 20-CA wall saw; the first in its class to have integrated most of its operating electronics into the saw head, which Hilti claims actually weighs less than units with external power boxes. Yet the configuration provides a 30% increase in power, and up to three times the starting torque for the 800mm blade. With a cordless remote control and integrated ‘CutAssist’ system, the saw displays cutting depth in real time and operates on a hands free basis, allowing operators to get started on setting up for the next cut, or perform other tasks. 


Going cordless

Battery powered equipment was another common theme for World of Concrete tool introductions. Hilti’s contributions included the TE-300A chipper, and TE 60 A-36 SDS max combihammer. The latter has consistently bested its corded counterpart, the TE 60, in drilling races with 3,300 impacts per minute, each with 1.1kg of energy. DeWalt introduced its new Flexvolt 60V DCH773 2 51mm brushless SDS MAX combination hammer, which achieves 19.4J, and the 20V 28.6mm DCH263 SDS Plus D-handle rotary hammer, with 3.0J of energy for high performance drilling and chipping.  Bosch displayed its new Bulldog 18V S26D rotary hammer with kickback control that minimises sudden tool reactions in bit bind up situations. Depending on bit sizes, the S26D can drill up to 60 holes on a single charge, thanks to a brushless motor that maximises runtime. Bosch plans to bring cordless versions of its RH540M and RH745 cordless hammers to the North American market later in the year.  “We won’t come out with a new cordless version of an existing tool unless it’s better than corded,” said Bosch spokesperson Rachael Klein.

Saws too were going untethered, as evidenced by Husqvarna’s new K355i 228.6mm battery powered power cutter, which at only 3.5kg can even be clipped to an operator’s belt. A range of battery types is available to maximise productivity, depending on the number of cuts and type of material. Husqvarna’s Henric Andersson says the company has stressed battery power in its product development because of its growing importance to users. “If someone can make a good battery powered cutter, it’s us, and we want to show that.” 

Stihl product manager Tom Techow noted that while the proliferation of battery powered saws may present competition for established products such as its TS230 cut off machine, users should carefully consider applications and power availability when comparing products. “Battery life is more of an academic question that depends on what you want to do,” Techow explained, adding that customers should also consider after sale service and availability of assistance in resolving issues as they arise. Among more conventional sawing products was Stihl’s TS440, introduced last May, with an extended guard adjustment designed for more easily cutting pipes and wall sections, and working in corners. When the guard is in the open position, a gyroscopic sensor activated brake stops rotation of the cutting wheel within a fraction of a second in the event of a kickback.

US Saws displayed another sawing innovation, the SX 13550 ‘Dust Buggy’. Powered by a 178mm Metabo grinder, this cleans joints up to 50.8mm deep, and up to 3mm wide. Standard depth control selections lock every 6.35mm, but can be fine-tuned to compensate for blade wear. Brushless motors are likewise making greater inroads in concrete construction tools. Examples included Makita’s XDT 16 18V LXT impact driver, which provides 180.78J of torque in four speed modes, and the XRH12 17.5mm rotary hammer, designed for overhead installation work. Metabo also announced that it would be overhauling its combihammer line with brushless motors. Three rotary models and two chippers will provide users with better control and reduced vibration so stated a company representative.

As battery power can take some tool types only so far, World of Concrete offered some innovative new options for energy. Makinex Construction Products debuted its portable ‘Power Box’, a hybrid battery powered AC generator soon to be available in models ranging from 4.4kW to 17.6kW. The Power Box produces pure sine wave power to cleanly run 120V and 240V tools all day. Recharging takes about two hours using conventional power sources, or three hours with an optional solar array attachment.  “The Power Box is also equipped to handle high surge loads, which covers a lot of construction equipment,” noted Makinex global product manager Jeff Durgin. “It’s designed for 10,000 recharge cycles, which will last about 20 years. We warranty the batteries for 10 years.”

Also on the power generation front, Doosan introduced its G25, G50 and G70 Tier 4 compliant mobile generators - its first equipped with Doosan engines. All three feature increased on board fuel capacity for runtimes in excess of 24h at any load factor. An optional 48h runtime solution is available on the G25 and G70 models. Doosan also debuted a new small air compressor line, including the C185 with 12.6h of runtime at 100% load, two hours longer than its predecessor model. The C185 offers cold starting capabilities at temperatures as low as -23°, with a Doosan DSN100 airend and a Tier 4 Final Doosan D18 engine delivering 5.23m3 of air at a rated operating pressure of 6.9bar.


Also on the floors

While the gradual maturation of the concrete floor grinding market may have thinned the number of manufacturers somewhat, established firms aren’t taking a breather. For example, Superabrasive launched an all-new generation of electric and propane grinders called ‘Lavina Elite’. Ranging from 500mm to 965mm models, this features redesigned frames for improved manoeuvrability and faster tool changes. The range also comes with dust proof grinding heads that protect internal components from dust and moisture, and integrated weights for adjusting grinding pressure. A new fine misting system suppresses dust particles from 0.1 to 1000microns, while the vacuum hose connection has been relocated closer to the dust source, and utilises a metal camlock attachment. Superabrasive’s Monika Angelova noted that the improvements have been development for some time. “It’s more efficient to introduce them as a complete product line, rather than implementing them piecemeal. Everything came together in the past year.”

HTC, now part of Husqvarna launched a new range of smaller floor grinders and dust extractors under the concept name of START & GRIND. Simple, robust, and easy-to-operate, these entry-level machines are especially suitable for floor preparation and can tackle anything from edge grinding to polishing medium-sized surfaces. These machines have been engineered for use by anyone whose experience of floor grinding is limited, but who wants to get started right away. This makes them ideal rental equipment. A special focus has been put on ease of handling and transportation as well as user safety. 

The manufacturer Scanmaskin launched their new World Series floorgrinder model 32 along with a new World Series Floor guide. The World Series floor guide for polished concrete combines the results of our extensive testing, together with a complete range and explanation of the tooling you need for the job. The easy step-by-step guide helps you achieve the ultimate finish every time. 

The World Series Floor includes three different systems that each can be used to achieve a matte, glossy, or super glossy finish. We call them World Series Matte, World Series HF (high refinement), and World Series VHF (Very high refinement). The World Series Floor also includes a number of new tools divided in three groups, World Series metals, World Series Ceramics and World Series Resins. More info on this in PDi 2-2019.

There remain opportunities for smaller grinder manufacturers to carve a niche in the market, and help others in the process. Ohio based Warrior Equipment displayed its new Samson 2618 665mm four head grinder, a 420kg machine that can cover 9.2m2 in three minutes. As with other Warrior products, the 2618 is assembled by wounded U.S. veterans, with a contribution from each sale benefitting the non-profit Wounded Warriors Family Support Project. Warrior representative Steve Salmons reported that since the product line’s introduction last year, Warrior has sold approximately one unit a week. “We’ve also made some sales at the show. People are impressed by what the grinder does, and like the idea of helping wounded veterans in the process.”

There were the larger machines that captured the imagination of World of Concrete visitors. These included Gehl’s RT105 track loader, which has an operating capacity of 419.5kg, and comes complete with the company’s ‘IdealTrax’ track tensioning system that operates while the engine is on, eliminating the chance of over tensioning, thereby extending the life of the tracks by up to 15%. Case showed its new 55 TV450 compact track loader, a vertical lift machine with a rated operating capacity of 2,041kg at 50% tipping load, and 40,870N of breakout force. Wacker Neuson launched its Series II large frame skid steer and compact track loaders, all powered by 55.4k diesel engines and auxiliary hydraulic flow of 83.6l/min.

The need for better oversight over elements of a concrete contractor’s equipment inventory has sparked interest in fleet management services. Provided by manufacturers and third party providers alike, these services provide users with a wealth of data on everything from where a particular tool is located, to how long it’s been used and if it’s due for maintenance. 

Husqvarna became the latest company to join that market, announcing its ‘Fleet Services’ as part of a larger after market and connectivity initiative. “Uptime is critical, so it’s critical for contractors and rental companies to become more proactive about preventive maintenance,” says an Husqvarna representative, adding that Fleet Services can be utilised for all brands of equipment, not just Husqvarna’s. “We understand the information needs of various equipment categories, because we build products for all of them.” As with many other types of technologies, there’s often an age gap of sorts with fleet management systems. “Younger people may ‘get it’ more than, say, a contractor who’s been in the business for several decades,” he says, adding that age and habit aren’t always insurmountable barriers. “They may not initially feel that they need it, but when they realise they do need it, they want it.”

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