Smaller in size, but bigger in hopes, as rare summertime World of Concrete sets the [...]

Published 8/7 at 18:41

Smaller in size, but bigger in hopes as rare summertime World of Concrete sets the stage for post pandemic construction market

In normal circumstances, a World of Concrete show, approximately half its usual size, would be cause for concern. Organisers report the 2021 edition attracted more than 650 exhibitors and ‘tens of thousands of industry professionals’ visiting. By comparison, the official numbers for 2020’s show, held just weeks before Conexpo, tallied twice as many exhibitors and 54,000 registrants. But after more than a year of life being anything but normal, the fact that World of Concrete was held at all was cause for celebration.

Moving World of Concrete from its traditional January calendar slot in hopes of eased pandemic conditions proved to be a winning bet for the show’s organisers, as the 8 to 10 June timeframe arrived just days after Las Vegas lifted restrictions on building capacity and large gatherings. Even the summertime desert sun accommodated the schedule shift, providing participants with a week of high temperatures of ‘only’ around 35° C.

To be sure, there were differences, with indoor booths being limited to the familiar confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall and the recently completed West Hall expansion. The substantially reduced number of outdoor demonstrations were deployed adjacent to the West Hall, as the traditionally bustling Silver Lot was given over to the event’s masonry competitions. International attendees were far fewer in number as well, evidencing the varying levels of coronavirus spread and vaccination levels worldwide.

Big show or not, most everyone at World of Concrete seemed just happy to be there and savour a sense of normality. Many attendees likened the environment to a ‘Conexpo year’, which suited them just fine. “There have been years when there were so many people, it was hard to talk to everyone or develop relationships,” observed Lissmac national sales manager Mitch Scott, who was attending his 25th World of Concrete. Rather than being besieged with contractor employees enjoying an off-season junket to Las Vegas, he noted: “We have more business owners and people who call the shots and make decisions.”

Though many companies nevertheless opted to stay home, Scott stated, “We can’t afford not to be here,” citing the need to see customers and demonstrate products such as a prototype 42.5kW front and rear pivot floor saws equipped with a Hatz turbodiesel engine.

Scott’s thoughts were shared by other companies. “After an extremely tough year for everyone, being able to return to Las Vegas with our machines and come face to face with our customers and everyone present was exciting,” remarked Ignasi Moner, CEO of Ausa US Corp., which showed its compact and mid-range range of dumpers and all terrain forklifts. “You can tell how eager everyone is to get back to normality and finally put this pandemic behind us,” he added. And even a relatively small crowd was enough to impress newcomers like Rob May, sales director for construction waste recycling specialist Senya Tech, which is introducing a ‘micro crusher’ material processing line to the North American market. “The number of visitors was unexpected, but great for us, because we’re trying to get our name out,” May said.

 

So much to see

A smaller World of Concrete didn’t diminish the show’s standing as a setting for new products. Husqvarna gave visitors a first look at its ‘K1’ cut off saw - the first product powered by the company’s new ‘PACE’ battery system. Weighing approximately the same as the 10.1kg ‘K770’ gas saw, the K1 uses specially designed 300mm and 350mm diamond blades optimised for battery operation. In the event of a pinch or kickback, the saw’s ‘X-Halt’ brake function stops blade rotation in a fraction of a second for enhanced safety. A Husqvarna spokesperson said the K1’s production rates and other specifications are still being refined in advance of the saw’s official release later this year. Husqvarna had other battery equipment on show, including the ‘DM 540i’ core drill and ‘VE 100i’ vacuum.

Another saw innovation on display was iQ’s ‘914’ 350mm dry cut power cutter, an existing model now featuring a fully integrated dust collector that the company says captures up to 90% of dust at the source. The integrated vacuum sucks dust through a retractable blade guard for a capacity of up to 2.2kg. The saw can also be connected to the ‘iQ426 HEPA dust extractor’ for additional dust collection capacity. The 914 features an 81cc German engineered two stroke high performance engine and an anti-vibration system with five steel springs and a rubber coated handle for fatigue free operation. The motor offers a choke free easy start system, and a one ‘push stop-system’ that stops the engine and immediately prepares it for renewed operation. An electronically controlled pump ensures the correct fuel-oil mixture. 

Speaking of the iQ426 dust extractor, the model features a four stage filtering system and 5.38m3/min of power in a rugged plastic casing that’s more suitable for construction settings than many metal framed models. “We design our own products because we’re tool users ourselves,” explains iQ co-founder and CEO Paul Guth. “We know what we want, and what others want.”

One concern unchanged by the pandemic is the ever shrinking pool of construction labour. Hilti offered some answers with demonstrations of its ‘Jaibot’, a semi-autonomous cordless mobile robot that works using building information modelling (BIM) data to drill 4.8mm to 16mm ceiling holes for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems at precise locations up to 5m high. Another Hilti development for overhead work is its ‘EXO-O1’ wearable exoskeleton, a human augmentation device developed with global prosthetics and orthotics manufacturer Ottobock. Wearing an EXO-O1 eliminates strain and fatigue that arises from performing tasks at the shoulder level and above, yet doesn’t constrain or interfere with a worker’s normal movements.

The show was also the first chance many contractors had to see of the fourth generation of Hilti’s popular ‘T70 ATC/AVR’ combination hammer, which was introduced last autumn. Hilti says the upgraded tool incorporates electronic based efficiencies that will help users drill up to 40% faster into reinforced concrete and demolish more concrete than the competing products in its class. The tool is also equipped with Hilti’s ‘Active Vibration Reduction’ technology that makes it less tiring to use.

A similar theme was found at the Makinex booth, where the Australian construction products manufacturer’s North American representatives displayed the new ‘Lift Assist LA90-350’. The pneumatic device is specifically designed to lift 27kg to 41kg jackhammers out of holes, taking the strain off operators while also providing greater control and precision. Makinex also displayed its upgraded 23kW, 480V ‘power box’, which provides a seamless range of mobile power with upgraded wheels for improved jobsite mobility.

 

The best - or at least better - is yet to come

As World of Concrete’s abbreviated week drew to a close, talk turned from how well the event lived up to its limited expectations to what the first months of the (hopefully for good) post pandemic market may hold, including prospects for World of Concrete’s 2022 edition, now just six months away. “It was definitely odd having the show in June in what is the busiest time of the year for many contractors,” observed Jason Root, sales manager for Syntec Diamond Tools. “The construction market seems like it will continue to thrive through the end of this year. We plan to exhibit in 2022 and expect a much better turnout.”

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