Moulding the Future of Concrete Paving with GOMACO and Topcon
Paving and kerbing methods have progressed significantly over the last 50 years, but New Zealand has been slower to adopt the latest in advanced technology. However, companies like Slipform NZ are going beyond what is currently being achieved, by enhancing their operation using the most progressive equipment available.
After investing in the GOMACO GT 3600 Slipform Paver, the team at Slipform NZ got in touch with us to support them with the installation of mmGPS. This would be the first fully automated slipform paver in the country, so we were excited to work on this unique project. In this case study, we take you through Topcon’s collaboration with GOMACO to create a custom kit for the GT 3600 Slipform Paver, as well as some valuable insights from Kane Barry, Managing Director at Slipform NZ, into their experience with the machine so far.
Traditional paving methods
Traditional paving methods can be extremely labour intensive and time-consuming, not only because of the initial prep that needs to be done but also due to the level of accuracy that needs to be achieved. Surveyors need to be on site to place pegs and pull string lines where the pavement is to be built, and this needs to be monitored closely to maintain the precision required. From here, contractors need to position kerbing blocks, either by hand or by machine, ensuring that they’re perfectly aligned with the string guide.
This manual process not only takes its toll on the crew working on site but also causes issues related to accessibility. Additionally, precision and accuracy is usually compromised throughout the course of a project, with string lines being prone to disruption.
Topcon mmGPS on the GOMACO GT 3600
With all of these obstacles in mind, Topcon teamed up with GOMACO to work on automating the GOMACO GT 3600 Slipform Paver with Topcon’s mmGPS systems. The goal was to eliminate the need for string lines, to create stringless concrete forming, with the highest level of automated accuracy possible.
The GOMACO GT 3600 is a concrete forming machine with 2 tracked wheels at the front, 1 tracked wheel at the back, and a mould bolted on the rear with the shape of the kerb being formed. Different moulds can be fitted, depending on the type of paving and the location. Without automation, the machine follows the string line, and forms the kerb and pavement based on that guide, using pin sensors that rest on top of, and next to the string line. The issue with this is that it still requires the expertise of a surveyor, plus other crew members, to accurately place string lines on site — a simple radius can take 2-3 days to complete.
Automating the GT 3600 took some creativity, as it doesn’t have an implement that moves up and down like a grader or dozer — instead, it has a mould, which articulates very differently. Considering the GPS antenna couldn’t be mounted directly over the mould, a completely customised kit was designed specifically for the GT 3600. With this machine, not only is it completely autonomous, we can see the exact angle of each wheel, and we know the precise elevation and position of the pavement being built. From here, it’s a matter of uploading the design specifications, hitting 1 or 2 buttons, and letting the machine get to work.
Synergy and Slipform NZ
The team at Slipform NZ have decades of experience in the concrete industry and specialise in concrete placing, concrete cutting, and more recently, slipform paving and kerbing. During the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020, they looked into how they could improve their operation, to get things done faster and more accurately. They understood that concrete experts overseas had been using more advanced technology for many years, but NZ was slow to innovate.
Within a month of finding the GT 3600 online, Slipform NZ was in touch with GOMACO to start what would be an 8-month process to get the machine into NZ. From there, they realised that the machine could be run with GPS systems, and decided to go all out and be the first in NZ with a fully automated slipform paver. With Topcon being a frontrunner in advanced construction technology, they got in touch with us to see how we could support the installation of mmGPS. Needless to say, we were very excited and more than happy to help push the boundaries of what was currently being achieved in the industry.
Working together, our main goal was to ease the pressure that came with staff turnaround rates, and the ongoing skill shortage in NZ, by eliminating human error using millimetre accuracy and speeding up the overall operation. When we met with the Slipform NZ team down in the Waikato, they had a site set up to test the machine. Initially, we pulled string lines and the machine followed them, as it usually would. Then, we completed the mmGPS automation installation and ripped out the string lines. The machine continued doing the work without any physical guide, relying only on the design specifications uploaded into the system, and the power of GPS positioning. The work was completed in about 15 minutes, so it was clear for everyone to see how much more efficient this machine could really be, and the implications that came with this.
Take a look at the GOMACO GT 3600 with mmGPS working effortlessly in this awesome video by Slipform NZ.
We spoke with Kane from Slipform NZ to get his perspective on how this investment has changed their business and some of the benefits that they’re seeing from it already. He shared 3 key highlights that have come out of this big decision:
1. Increased accuracy
The elimination of human error is a game-changer when it comes to mmGPS and automated systems. Humans need to double or triple check their work to make sure that it’s within the design tolerance. When watching the display on the machine, it was crazy to see the numbers flicker between 1 or 2mm off the design.
2. Maximised productivity
Before investing in the machine, on a good week, we might be able to achieve 500m of paving with 5 or 6 crew members. This manual process would be extremely exhausting for the team. With the machine, we can theoretically do the same amount of work within a day, or even a few hours, showing that it’s at least 5 times more efficient than doing things by hand. Workers are also able to move more freely on site, without worrying about knocking string lines throughout the day.
3. Ongoing support
After committing to the investment, the initial and ongoing support from the team at Synergy gave us the confidence we needed to manage any issues that might come up on site. From the beginning, the training we received was tailored to our limited experience using these systems. Once we had everything going, even if the team from Synergy couldn’t come out to the site, they would log into the machine remotely to see how it was tracking, and to anticipate any challenges we might encounter.
The initial capital outlay required when investing in any kind of advanced construction technology will be daunting to many businesses. However, examples like this from Slipform NZ show how the equipment can quickly pay for itself, thanks to the opportunities made possible using new technology. Additionally, the resources saved on projects, thanks to increased accuracy and productivity, is one more factor that justifies the expenditure.
Another barrier that businesses run into when looking at this kind of equipment is the lack of information and support available to get up and running. At Synergy, we take the time to ensure that you get the proper training and guidance you need to reach your full potential, and get ahead of your competition.
If you’d like some advice about how you can optimise your operation with next-generation construction technology, get in touch with the team today.