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Gypsum Solutions

Selecting a Pump to Maximize Productivity and Profitability in Gypsum Applications

By Tripp Farrell, President, Blastcrete Equipment, LLC

New construction is on the rise across the country – especially for multi-family residential units, where completions are at record numbers and show little evidence of slowing down into 2020. These projects create an ideal environment for contractors looking to break into or grow their business in high-flow material markets with gypsum floor underlayment, grouting, cellular concrete, plaster and stucco applications. 

Recent advancements in rotor-stator technology led to the introduction of an adjustable rotor-stator pump with inline pressure gauge to the gypsum mixer/pump market. This innovation allows contractors to adjust flow to meet a project’s unique requirements, resulting in less wear and tear on pump components

However, success in this field requires an investment in specialized equipment – a limiting factor for many bottom-line-conscious contractors. While there is no way to offset equipment costs altogether, recent innovations in gypsum mixer/pumps have made these units more affordable, user-friendly and versatile than previous options. With the right equipment, contractors can see quick ROI and increased efficiency.

Here are several key factors to consider when selecting a gypsum mixer/pump to maximize productivity and profitability.

Pump Type

The type of pump is perhaps the most important feature to consider when investing in a gypsum mixer/pump. For contractors considering lower output gypsum applications such as radiant heat, smaller and more economical peristaltic/squeeze pumps can be used successfully. However, squeeze pumps will surge, which results in a light interruption in material flow. Minimal surging can lead to splatter on drywall, resulting in unnecessary cleanup. The squeeze pump has a maximum 450 psi line pressure which limits pumping distance to around 300 feet.  

Rotor-stator pumps, on the other hand, provide continuous flow, eliminating surges and increasing productivity. These pumps can generate up to 600 psi of pumping pressure – about 30 percent more than squeeze pumps – for pumping distances in excess of 150 feet vertically and 500 feet horizontally. 

Gypsum mixer/pumps that can be charged directly with a specially designed skid steer bucket not only saves time and energy; they allow contractors to set up sand and gypsum stockpiles in a separate location when space is at a premium. 
 

Recent advancements in rotor-stator technology led to the introduction of an adjustable rotor-stator pump with inline pressure gauge to the gypsum mixer/pump market. This innovation allows contractors to adjust flow to meet a project’s unique requirements. Tightening the rotor-stator results in maximum pumping distances, which is ideal for high-rise and long-distance jobs. When the job requires shorter pumping distances – between 200 and 300 feet – contractors simply loosen Gypsum mixer/pumps that can be charged directly with a specially designed skid steer bucket not only saves time and energy; they allow contractors to set up sand and gypsum stockpiles in a separate location when space is at a premium.  rotor-stator. This flexibility results in optimum pumping pressure for the application. 

Adjusting the pump to fit the application specifications results in less wear and tear on the rotor-stator since these are the primary wear parts on this style of pump. Monitoring and adjusting the line pressure helps contractor double or even triple the life of these components. To further minimize lifetime maintenance costs and unnecessary downtime, some OEMs design their adjustable rotor-stator pumps with easy access to mechanical seals. This user-friendly design allows operators to perform mechanical seal maintenance without dismantling the rotor and stator, drastically reducing labor expenses and saving hours of unnecessary downtime. 

Price Point

No product selection discussion would be complete without touching on price. Cost is an important factor in determining the value a piece of equipment brings to a business and whether it’s worth pursuing. In the past, a limited selection of gypsum mixer/pump models meant contractors looking to invest in gypsum equipment might be stuck with a higher price tag and unnecessary features for their operation. 

The type of pump is perhaps the most important feature to consider when investing in a gypsum mixer/pump. Rotor-stator pumps provide continuous flow, eliminating surges and increasing productivity.
 

A lack of specialized gypsum equipment options also led some contractors to purchase units designed for more general cementitious applications – a situation that came with its own host of problems. However, as the gypsum industry continues to develop, more economical mixer/pump options with simpler and more user-friendly designs are filling the gap, offering contractors the ability to select equipment based on their needs without overinvesting.

Prices for a new gypsum mixer/pump can range from $45,000 to well over $125,000. Comparing apples to apples in terms of capacity and output, contractors will find minimal difference between most gypsum machines. The industry average is 12-cubic-foot mixers and pumping speeds well over 100 bags of gypsum per hour. 

Differences arise with a closer inspection of the spec sheets. Contractors looking to not pay for more than they need should contact manufacturers to walk through what features are necessary for their specific operation. For example, engine size can play a huge part in price differentiation. Gypsum mixer/pumps range in size from 3,350 pounds with a 32-horsepower engine to nearly 10,000 pounds with a 100-horsepower engine. 

Exactly how much horsepower is necessary will depend on the target applications, so discussing options with OEM experts is important for making the most practical and economical decision. While gypsum mixer/pumps are not totally customizable, partnering with certain OEMs allows for a more personalized result, often with a significant cost savings over standard models. 

Simplified Design

The saying “less is more” often applies to gypsum mixer/pumps. In addition to reducing the initial cost, selecting a reliable gypsum mixer/pump that does the basics and does them well often results in a user-friendly unit that’s easy to operate, maintain, and keep clean.

Hydraulic spiral mixers offer a benefit over paddle mixers since they can operate at higher speeds without splashing or throwing material out of the mixer. This mixer also limits possible maintenance issues and unnecessary downtime by minimizing moving parts.

To make the most of an equipment investment, the machine needs to have high utilization. For contractors looking to operate at multiple jobsites with multiple crews, selecting a gypsum mixer/pump with the essential components and no frills equates to less training, less downtime and less stress. Machines with a simple, intuitive design are easy to operate with minimal training. This opens up the door for maximum productivity since contractors can train several crew members and still deliver quality results.

Fewer moving parts also means less mess and less maintenance. A unit’s mixer is a good example of this. Most units feature either a paddle type mixer or a hydraulic spiral mixer. Both work quickly, mixing a full load in about two minutes. However, hydraulic spiral mixers offer a benefit over paddle mixers since they can operate at higher speeds without splashing or throwing material out of the mixer. This leads to increased productivity since crews are not spending unnecessary time cleaning. 

Additionally, the paddle style mixers used in gypsum equipment usually have two mixer shafts, which doubles the moving parts. Compare this to a single planetary gearbox driving the spiral mixer. With features like spiral mixers, new gypsum mixer/pumps limit possible maintenance issues and unnecessary downtime by minimizing moving parts.

These time-savings aren’t limited to major maintenance. Proper cleaning is vital for any concrete pump, including gypsum equipment. The less there is to clean, the faster this process will be. Look for a model with easily accessible wear parts to make daily cleaning as efficient as possible. Some manufactures have gone a step further to simplify maintenance by engineering a removable mixer and pump kit that simply detaches from the machine for the ease of cleaning and scheduled maintenance.

Maneuverability

Transportability is another key consideration when selecting the right mixer/pump combination. The larger and more remote the contractor’s service area, the more vital this becomes. Units featuring robust trailers for long-distance travel and a lighter footprint provide a more practical solution for extended service areas. For maximum maneuverability, look for a unit with a dual axle high-speed towing trailer and tubular steel frame to enable safe travel on highways. 

Onsite maneuverability is another area to keep in mind. Once the equipment has arrived, its placement and use can be quite the logistical challenge – especially on crowded jobsites. A gypsum pump with a smaller footprint can increase overall productivity. The charging process for different machines is a good example of this. Some models include a skip hoist to charge the mixer. The hoist is filled with sand and gypsum either by hand or with a skid steer bucket. When full, it rises and dumps into the mixer. 

This system requires sand and gypsum material to be stored near the pump and ample space for the hoist to maneuver, limiting where contractors can set it up. Gypsum pumps without the skip hoist eliminate the additional step and can be charged directly with a specially designed skid steer bucket. This not only saves time and energy; it allows contractors to set up sand and gypsum stockpiles in a separate location when space is at a premium. 

Customer Service

As with many equipment decisions, brand is an important factor to consider when selecting a gypsum mixer/pump. The right machine will ultimately be the one with the ideal combination of features and price, but the service and support behind that unit can’t be discounted. Partnering with a manufacturer that has a reputation for robust, high quality machines means operators can expect fewer breakdowns over its lifetime. Plus, when parts and service are required, knowing the team behind the brand is available 24/7 can be a huge relief. From fast delivery of parts to expert troubleshooting, dedicated OEMs help their customers increase efficiency.    

Making the Right Selection

The surest route to success in any business starts with investing in the best equipment to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Recent advances are making it easier and more economical for first-time and veteran gypsum contractors to take this step, but there are still many factors to consider. From design to durability, selecting a gypsum mixer/pump for maximum productivity and profitability must begin with the contractor’s unique needs. 

This feature appeared in the December 2019 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor,
Western Builder

Paving the Way for Success

When Charlie Swift started Southeast Asphalt and Maintenance LLC in 1996, his budget determined his equipment, and his equipment determined the jobs he could take. 

“Basically, I started out with the cheapest equipment I could get,” he said.  

For Swift, building an asphalt sealcoating and maintenance company from the bottom up meant getting things done on an extremely limited budget. Through the humble beginnings of his business, Swift quickly learned that when you rely on inexpensive, used equipment, you’re only as good as your worst piece – and that was anything but efficient. 

Since adding the DA-350 to the Southeast fleet, Swift has discovered a significant bidding advantage over many competitors. The dual applicator has made it possible to place lower bids, bid on a wider range of projects, and complete them in less time.

Early on, his equipment set the parameters for his potential. Projects took longer to complete, and he was only able to bid on small projects, such as parking lots for banks and other local businesses. Determined to keep finding work, Swift maximized the potential of his second-hand sealcoating equipment. 

“As I gained more experience, I kept getting better and better and saw my business growing busier and busier,” he said. 

Finally, Swift reached a tipping point.

“I was getting enough work that I could start upgrading equipment. It made it possible for us to handle larger jobs,” he said. 

The jobs continued to line up and Swift hasn’t looked back. It’s now been two decades and Southeast has expanded to have a national reach. Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, a majority of the company’s work is centered in the southeast, but knowing his equipment is up to the task, Swift isn’t afraid to bid large projects across the country.

A driving force behind Swift’s confidence to bid bigger jobs was the Neal Manufacturing Division of Blastcrete Equipment, LLC’s DA-350 Dual Applicator, purchased in 2014. It wasn’t the first time he had bought a Neal Manufacturing applicator, but it was the first one he purchased new. 

For Swift, it didn’t take spreadsheets or months of operation to see the value of his newest machine. The DA-350 dual applicator, equipped with a spray bar and even-flow squeegee, was quick to demonstrate its value, project after project. Prior to adding the DA-350 to his fleet, Southeast would take on large lots using a truck-mounted hand-spray applicator. With the new machine, some hand spraying is still required, but only around the edges. 

Once the prep is complete and the edges are sprayed, one person is able to drive the DA-350 to complete the remaining surface. Instead of three workers hand spraying with three tips, one employee can conquer the same area in a fraction of the time, cutting overall project time and freeing up the additional crew members to move on to other jobs. Swift said the dual machine makes quick work of large lots, helping him complete jobs that once took 10 to 12 hours in as few as four.  

After Southeast Asphalt purchased Neal Manufacturing’s dual applicator machine, which features a squeegee and spray bar, they quickly saw its value, project after project.
 

A Class of Its Own

Since adding the DA-350 to the Southeast fleet, Swift has discovered a significant bidding advantage over many competitors. The dual applicator has made it possible to place lower bids, bid on a wider range of projects, and complete them in less time. Swift also increased profits, estimating Southeast can earn 35 to 40 percent more each day using the new machine.

Swift pointed out that for many projects, similar productivity can be reached with other commercial ride-on sealing applicators, but to him, there are times when there’s no comparison. 

“The pump,” Swift said, “is the differentiating factor. Their pump is capable of handling more material and heavier material than any other pump I’ve used. The Neal Manufacturing pump is known for that. They don’t need as much maintenance or cleaning, either.”

The DA-350 uses the company’s heavy-duty aggregate pump, which achieves 100 gallons per minute. It also manages heavier sand loads. 

“Diaphragm pumps work great for a standard sand load of 2 to 4 percent, but some projects require a heavier sand load. That’s when I need the DA-350,” Swift said.

Swift will run a sand load of 4 percent up to 8 percent through the DA-350 without hesitation. His fleet of resurfacing applicators also includes machines equipped with diaphragm pumps. But when a project requires anything over 4 percent, he knows it will be going through the Neal Manufacturing pump.

Prior to adding the DA-350, Southeast Asphalt would take on large lots using a truck-mounted hand-spray applicator. With the new machine, some hand spraying is still required, but only around the edges. 

Good, Better, Best

Swift doesn’t hesitate to declare that Neal Manufacturing makes the most dependable and efficient asphalt resurfacing applicator he’s worked with. He also wasn’t shy about approaching the manufacturer when he had ideas for improvement. According to Swift, Neal Manufacturing engineers not only welcomed his input, but worked with him to develop custom improvements for his applicator. 

“It was easy,” Swift said. “When I worked with the engineer, he had some solutions and suggestions, as did I, and we came out with a great machine.” 

The most notable improvements were made to his machine’s hydraulics and switches, specifically, the hydraulic dump valve. On a standard DA-350, the dump valve is controlled by a toggle switch and manually operated with a foot pedal. Swift’s DA-350 features a modified hydraulic dump control. The custom control makes it possible for the operator to open and close the valve as fast as he or she wants. The modification also allows the operator to set and hold the valve at a desired rate without having to continually monitor the control. 

“With the standard foot pedal, if you want it open 20 percent, you have to manually hold it right there. With mine, I just open it up to the dump rate I want, let loose and it stays put. I don’t have to worry about holding a certain pressure, if I set it at 50 percent, it stays at 50 percent,” Swift said. “The feature helps simplify things for the operator, who already has a lot going on – driving the machine, dumping sealer, trying not to dump too much – this modification makes it much easier.”

Dual Threat Contractor

As a business owner, Swift has discovered numerous advantages to owning a DA-350 dual applicator, the most significant of which has been its ability to transform Southeast into a dual-threat contractor. The DA-350 combines a six-tip spray bar capable of spraying 11 feet combined with an 8-foot squeegee. The option of a riding squeegee unlocks an entirely new segment of the asphalt sealing and maintenance contracts.

Many contractors don’t invest in a riding squeegee applicator because it’s not necessary for most jobs, especially smaller ones. For Swift, the ability to tackle everything from local bank parking lots to massive distribution centers has been a game changer. 

“Eighty percent of contractors can’t offer the squeegee method unless they do it by hand. Having both on one riding machine puts you in a different category of contractors,” Swift explained. “We get invited to work for large distribution centers all over the country because of our capabilities. Contractors who don’t offer the ride-on squeegee method can’t bid those jobs.” 

Swift will still tell you that you’re only as good as your worst piece of equipment, but in recent years he’s been more concerned about reaching the full potential made possible by his best piece of equipment.

The Right Flow — When a Concrete Pump Attachment Is Ideal for Filling ICFs

Blastcrete Equipment Company Retains Key Neal Manufacturing Employees Following Acquisition

Maury Bagwell

Maury Bagwell

Blastcrete Equipment Company has retained several key Neal Manufacturing employees following its acquisition of the company in November 2013. Neal, a leading manufacturer of mechanized asphalt sealcoating equipment, now operates as a division of Blastcrete in Anniston, Ala.

Greg Dodson, Eric Humphries and Edward Langley are staying on with the company. They join Maury Bagwell, who left his position as Neal’s president in 2011 to join the Blastcrete team.

Blastcrete President Jim Farrell said that, with Blastcrete’s financial stability, Neal customers can be assured Neal will be there to provide the equipment and service they need for years to come. He added that Blastcrete and Neal customers are fortunate to be able to benefit from the experience, expertise and continuity that Dodson, Humphries, Langley and Bagwell provide for the new Blastcrete division.

“We’re excited about continuing Neal’s leadership in the industry, meeting the needs of its existing customer base and reaching out to new customers,” Farrell said. “These are excellent employees who, over the years, helped connect the Neal name to quality and innovation in sealcoating. Now they’re doing the same as part of the Blastcrete family.”

Dodson brings 20 years of industry experience to his role as a fabrication specialist. He has held a range of positions at Neal and other companies, including purchaser, designer, fabricator and shop manager.

Humphries also brings 20 years of industry experience to the new division in his role as sales manager. He was a sales representative for Neal from 1994 to 2001, then opened Advantage Sealcoating in Atlanta in 2001 and rejoined Neal in 2005. Humphries serves as a seminar instructor, and with his broad experience he can educate both contractors and manufacturers from both sides of the business.

Langley, who gained 10 years of experience as a repair technician at Neal, assembles and maintains products to ensure maximum performance. He earned a degree in flexography from West Georgia Technical College in Carrollton, Ga.

Bagwell invented the 50-gpm electrically controlled pump (ESP) and 100-gpm electrically controlled super sand pump (ESSP) hydraulic piston pump systems. Both of them, along with the application specific hydraulic demand system, were protected under U.S. patents. He brings 39 years of industry experience to overseeing design, engineering and maintenance as Blastcrete’s general manager. Bagwell earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Neal Manufacturing has been leading the mechanized asphalt sealcoating equipment industry since 1977. The company pioneered the development of ride-on squeegee and self-propelled machines, as well as its 50-gpm electrically controlled pump (ESP) and 100-gpm electrically controlled super sand pump (ESSP) hydraulic piston pump systems, which were industry firsts. Neal Manufacturing is a division of Blastcrete Equipment Co., a manufacturer of mixing, pumping and spraying equipment serving the refractory, shotcrete, concrete construction and repair, underground mining and tunneling, and power generation industries worldwide. For more information: Blastcrete Equipment Company, Neal Manufacturing Division visit: www.nealequip.com.

Blastcrete Equipment Company’s Skid Steer Pump Features Universal Design

Blastcrete Equipment Company, manufacturer of concrete mixers, pumps and related products, offers the Model RD6536 Skid Steer Pump Attachment. Featuring a universal design compatible with any skid steer, the 3-inch hydraulic squeeze pump is ideal for ICF, block fill, form and pour, driveways, basements and various shotcrete applications.

With the ability to pump grout materials, 3/8-inch shotcrete and 3/4-inch structural concrete mixes, the RD6536 are a fast, efficient solution for contractors performing a variety of concrete and shotcrete applications. The unit offers a variable speed of 0-25 cubic yards per hour. Vertical pumping distance reaches 50 feet with the use of a rubber delivery line, while horizontal distance can reach up to 250 feet.

A hydraulic agitator is included in the receiving hopper. The agitator’s continuous motion keeps the mix well blended ensuring aggregate and sand stay evenly suspended throughout the mix. Not only does this result in high-strength concrete, it keeps the aggregate and sand from settling to the bottom of the hopper and clogging near the suction area.

To relieve pressure build-up clogs and eliminate potential damage to the pump, the RD6536 can be run in both forward and reverse. Hydraulically powered controls are located on the pump and also operate both agitator and pump speed.

The RD6536 weighs in at 2,700 pounds and hydraulic oil requirement is 18 GPM at 3,000 PSI. The 48-inch wide frame (55-inch with receiving hopper) is designed to be narrow enough to fit between the wheel wells of most standard work trucks. The unit includes forklift pockets to allow quick and easy loading and unloading from the transport vehicle.

Maintenance requirements for the RD6536 are simple and take just minutes. The steel-constructed unit is designed to prevent any concrete from coming in contact with the pump’s moving parts, further reducing maintenance concerns and ensuring a long service life. The primary wear part, the rubber pumping tube, can be easily replaced on the jobsite in about 20 minutes. And unlike other types of concrete pumps, clean-up on the RD6536 squeeze pump is fast and hassle-free. Using just water and a sponge ball, the pump can be cleaned out in approximately 5 minutes.