Precast factory

Why do precast factory QC’s and managers use concrete sensors?

Maturix for Precast Factory

What are the main challenges in precast factories?

Difficulty optimizing production time and resources

Today, precast sites often produce after fixed plans, templates and schedules. As a result, you normally have to set plans after worst-case scenarios. These plans will assure that the products are manufactured without defects and that the formwork can be safely removed even during the winter time. This approach works well to comply comfortably with the requirements but it can also produce way too slow production cycles. 

Some factories try to optimize their production cycles by relying only on break tests. The challenge with this method is that the strength in the samples (also called specimens) might not be the same as the one in the concrete element. This happens because even if the samples are placed close to the structure, to simulate the same curing conditions as the structure, the majority of the time the concrete elements have a much higher mass. This means that the elements will generate much more heat, due to the exothermic reaction, and develop strength much faster than the samples. So you may be waiting 1, 2 or even 4 hours additional hours while the element has already reached the desired strength.

Keep high safety standards

Another issue, which is connected to the previous one, is how to run an efficient and productive factory while still keeping your employees safe at all times. You probably do not want to leave the concrete elements curing for too long, but if the process is rushed the element may not have the strength required and fall apart when it is being lifted. This could be disastrous for the safety of the employees but also a big waste in terms of time and materials.

Document and assure quality

The daily life in the precast factory is quite hectic. The element molds are being prepared, concrete is being poured, sometimes compacted with a machine and then the process is repeated again and again. In this tight schedule, it might be hard to find someone that has the time to make a report about the process. Then if something goes wrong, it would be very hard to figure out where the issue came from.

Benefits of using concrete sensors as a precast factory

Could using concrete sensors help?

Two of the three main challenges explained above could be addressed if you knew the elements’ strength. Imagine if you could see the concrete strength at any point in time. Then, you could start optimizing production times and using your resources more efficiently while still maintaining a high safety standard.

Five years ago, Contiga Tinglev, a group of precast sites owned by Heidelberg Cement, realized that this was the key to increase capacity and reduce product waste. So together with them we developed Maturix Precast, a platform specifically designed to fit the needs and address the challenges of precast factories. They have been using it ever since, and the key results after installation were:

You can watch the video of multiple employees at Contiga explaining their experience with Maturix Precast:

But how does it solve the problem?

The Maturix system is a solution for intelligent temperature and strength monitoring in concrete. The system enables you to see the temperature and strength development in real time from any device. This gives you the opportunity to know exactly what is happening inside your concrete and how fast your concrete is curing.

The Maturix system consists of one or multiple transmitters, sensor/s and the Maturix Precast online platform. Sometimes, a Sigfox gateway can be added to the system to improve the network coverage. You can see a diagram of the full system below:

You can watch the video of multiple employees at Contiga explaining their experience with Maturix Precast:

By using thermocouples that are cast directly in the structure and connected to a transmitter, the temperature inside the concrete is measured continuously. The data is sent wirelessly to the cloud platform. The software automatically calculates maturity and strength based on the history data and the concrete mix and the strength development process can be followed. The data is accessible from any device, thus smartphone, tablet or computer with internet connection via the web portal or app and provides real-time insights into the actual curing status inside the structure in several positions for each cast.

How do you set it up?

The Maturix system offers a fast and simple installation once the online platform has been set up and you have a maturity calibration (only relevant for strength monitoring).

Online platform

1. Set up your project in the online platform

Installation

Installation Rebar

2. Install Thermocouple

Secure the thermocouple with cable ties at the desired position where you want to follow the curing process.

Concrete pouring

4. Pour Concrete

Cast the concrete. Start the monitoring in the software to follow the curing process in real-time.

Gaia 200 & Type K Thermocouple

3. Connect Transmitter

Plug the thermocouple into the wireless transmitter to start the continuous data transmission.

Maturix Precast Software

5. Get Results

Access the data in the web portal from anywhere and stay updated with customisable alarms.

Other factories that also use Maturix

Contiga Precast Factory

Contiga Tinglev

Contiga, based in Tinglev, Denmark, is a precast factory with the largest total production capacity in one factory in the Nordic region with more than 35,000 m² of production halls. They produce and deliver weekly 10,000 m² wall elements, 10,000 m² hollow slabs, 400-600 m beams, 400-600 m columns and they are driven by high-quality standards and thus strongly emphasize quality assurance. 

Aarsleff BIZ

Aarsleff Precast

Aarsleeff BIZ based in Swinoujscie, Poland is a precast company from a different scale: They focus on extensive prefabricated concrete elements for the construction industry. Thus, they combine custom made solutions with more standardised precast elements with high cycles. The factory produces middle or big-sized elements for international clients, combining speed, quality, and cost.

Which are the benefits of using sensors?

Using wireless concrete sensors as part daily production of precast elements gives a unique set of opportunities:

Enable fast and secure formwork removal or post-tensioning work

Embedding wireless sensors in concrete gives you the opportunity to monitor concrete temperature, concrete maturity, and concrete strength. Knowing the concrete strength in real-time (some systems also enable a prediction) enables you to know exactly when your concrete element is ready for being moved and new concrete can be poured in the form. This enables you to speed up your production and increase production capacity. 

Overview of production

Real-time data on dashboards in production

We know that inside a precast production it might be hard to handle a phone or a laptop without it getting full of dust or concrete. That is why the information from the Maturix system can be displayed on a screen inside your production facility. This way, every team member knows the status of the elements in real-time without each needing to check individually. The dashboard shows exactly how far the curing is and how much curing time is left (prediction of the remaining curing). The risk of too early concrete stripping/formwork removal resulting in waste is reduced while the product quality is enhanced. 

Complement break tests with continuous real-time information

Concrete break tests are good indicators to see if you’re able to obtain the final strength after the traditional 28-days, but they are not really good indicators of the continuous strength development of the concrete in the form. Wireless sensors can fill the information gaps and provide you with an overview of the whole strength development process. You may still need to use break-test to fulfil some specifications but you can use the Maturix system to follow your castings along the way. 

Automatic reporting

All data is automatically stored and formatted in reports in the Maturix Precast platform. These reports are ready to be exported, in PDF or another format, and printed anytime. The reports are updated every 10 minutes when new data is received and contains both data from the concrete, temperature, and the ambient humidity and KPI’s like maximum temperature, production time etc. Everything done automatically without any use of labor.

Maturix precast-combi-reports

Save heating costs

Heating the elements’ bed, either from underneath with hot water/steam or from on top with air / infrared heaters, is often used to ensure a faster curing time. Normally, these mechanisms use a standard daily “template” for when they need to be turned on and off. With these standard templates, the heating may keep using electricity even if the element has already reached the desired strength. Maturix allows you to see exactly when you have reached the desired strength in real-time so you can take actions to optimize the heating usage. You may also discover that the elements reach the strength much faster than you thought and heating can be minimized or even turned off.

Save heating costs

Detect issues faster

By using concrete sensors on a daily basis, you might be able to see if there are sudden changes in the data. These could indicate a problem with some equipment or issues with the concrete mix. Normally, it can take weeks or months to identify these types of problems (like a leaking heating pipe, abnormal water temperatures in tanks or similar) but with the continuous data these issues can be detected faster.

Do you want to try wireless sensors?

We are currently running a campaign offer for an easy and affordable trial of our concrete sensors. Our trial packages have no strings attached, this means you have fully purchased your hardware and don’t need to return it. After the first 3 months service, the subscription will automatically stop. If you want to continue, then you have the option to either opt in for a yearly or monthly subscription.

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