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Astec and the world of asphalt

Astec Industries displayed its latest innovations at the most recent World of Asphalt event in the United States.

A rundown of Astec Industries’ recent presentation and participation in the World of Asphalt Conference, the largest event of its kind for the asphalt and aggregates sectors. Roads & Infrastructure talks to Astec’s Jorge Boil about the event.

According to Business Wire, the global market for asphalt in 2020 was estimated at 119.4 million tonnes, a volume that’s projected to grow to 183 million tonnes by 2027. 

With the material’s widespread use, companies across the world are always looking for the latest batch mixes and machinery to produce the best possible outcome with what has for decades been a staple of road construction.

The desire to centralise innovation and discussions led to the launch of what is now a major event for the asphalt industry.

The first ‘World of Asphalt’ event was held in 2001 and has run every year since (except for years when CONEXPO-CON/AGG is held). That first show featured 3200 asphalt professionals across 28,000 square feet of displays from 86 exhibitors.

Now the event attracts more than 15,000 visitors, featuring 440 companies across more than 200,000 square feet of displays. 

This growth has led to it becoming an enticing opportunity for attendees and exhibitors from across the world.

Building on Astec Industries’ strong presence in the United States, representatives from Astec Australia recently travelled to take part in the event.

The World of Asphalt and NSSGA’s AGG1 Aggregates Academy Expo 2024, held between March 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee showcased the next generation of industry machinery and equipment, as well as solutions to tackle hot topics such as sustainability, safety and diversity.

Labelled as the largest event for asphalt professionals and contractors from across the aggregates, asphalt paving, haulage and technology solutions spaces, the expo featured some of the largest players in the asphalt space from across the globe.

The Roadtec RX-405 Cold Planer.
The Roadtec RX-405 Cold Planer.

This included aggregate and asphalt producers, asphalt equipment and machinery manufacturers, and infrastructure providers as well as sustainable material developers.

The event presented an opportunity for Astec to showcase five new pieces of equipment, most of which are recently or yet to be released in the Australian market. Most products were part of Astec’s ‘rock to road’ range, an area in which the company has more than 50 years’ worth of experience.

Among the highlights were Astec’s F-Series Highway Class Pavers, the RP-175 and RP-195. 

Jorge Boil, Business Line Manager – Infrastructure, says a key feature of the F-Series is the paver’s conveyor and auger design which keeps material live and moving, thereby increasing production throughput and material flow.

“We have also introduced innovations for asphalt plants when it comes to accurately measuring the moisture level of the material, via a state-of-the-art optional sensor, before it enters the mixing drum. And we’ve updated the systems controlling the burners which, in turn, control the feed of the plant and so on. The overall result is that it’s now a lot more accurate,” he says.

“Sustainability was a big focus of the expo, and by controlling the moisture, the burner doesn’t have to run as hard, so it’s using less fuel while reducing emissions.”

The F-Series Roadtec pavers can also incorporate another key optional feature developed by Astec. ‘SmartEdge Joint Detection’ is an innovative screed automation technology that uses laser imaging to generate a 3D model of a lane edge. 

The laser is mounted on the paver in front of the screed so that during paving operations, a sensor scans the lane edge and creates a 3D profile of the edge condition. This information is then passed to the control head unit which automatically charts a flight path for the screed extension to follow. 

‘SmartEdge Joint Detection’ is invaluable for both straight mainline work and curved edges, and the system is interchangeable for both left- and right-hand side use.

On top of enhancing the quality of every pass, the feature allows fleet managers and team leaders to decrease the number of crew members required for a job, and helps reduce the skill gap for operators who might be new to the industry or the machine itself.


 

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Next-gen technology 

Another highlight and technical innovation on show was Astec’s RX-405 cold planer. First revealed at ConExpo in 2023, the planer incorporates the latest technology to increase the safety and overall efficiency of the machine. 

“A key feature of the RX-405 is the almost 360-degree camera vision around the machine, helping the operator to identify if there’s a person, machine or object in the way. It provides a true bird’s eye view of the entire machine from the operator console,” Boil says.

This ‘environmental awareness system’ provides an aerial view of the machine in real time to enhance safety and visibility to surrounding hazards. The technology made its debut at the event and is expected to become a standard feature on all Astec milling machines from Q4 2024. 

To enable the operator to optimise the output of the RX-405, Astec developed and installed a mid-mount variable cutter system which helps deliver the most accurate cuts possible, with every pass. 

Astec Industries’ RP-175 F-Series Highway Class Paver.
Astec Industries’ RP-175 F-Series Highway Class Paver.

This is achieved through cutting widths ranging from 609mm to 1524mm, and a maximum cutting depth of 355mm. 

The ease of operation and accuracy of the RX-405 comes via exceptional engine torque and horsepower. The cold planer’s Stage Five Cummins QSL-9 engine delivers 430 horsepower.

A variety of cutter drums are also available for customers, and other optional extras include a night light package, vacuum dust extraction kit and rear object detection system.

“There’s a big trend towards compact machinery with better fuel economy and less emissions. The days of going out and working on a single site for weeks are now pretty limited. Flexibility is what’s required today. Operators need to be able to go from site to site, sometimes in the same day,” Boil says.

“That’s been a big change in the United States as well. Nowadays you’re doing a job in the morning, one in the afternoon and another one at night.”

In the equipment it designs and manufactures, Astec has achieved the right balance between mobility, agility and power. Its machinery is flexible enough to move around on site, compact enough to be transported between different sites and, at the same time, powerful enough to get the job done efficiently and well.

Garry van den Beld​​​​, National Account Manager – Mobile Asphalt, says taking strides in these areas is part of the Astec way.

“Astec is always looking at new technologies in reducing fuel consumption and emissions from its machines, and delivering even greater efficiencies when it comes to the hydraulic parasitic pressure to ensure smooth operation and less heat. We’re pushing very hard in these important areas with a number of specialised engineering resources,” he says. “It’s all part of our commitment to continuous improvement and helping our customers succeed.”

Astec’s RX-405, RP-175 and RP-195 will be available to Australian customers later this year. 

This article was originally published in the June edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.

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