Although the asphalt paver has evolved since it was first manufactured, the asphalt paving equipment industry is seeing some recent trends and innovations that are influencing both current and future asphalt paver manufacturing.
Trends & innovations
Manufacturers agree that the trend toward electrically heated screeds is here to stay and might just be the biggest influence on current paver manufacturing. The trend toward electric screeds came about with a growing emphasis on fuel efficiency. Electric screeds eliminate the use of diesel fuel and the resulting fumes. They also offer an easier way to control heat and are cleaner thus eliminating some maintenance issues associated with diesel heated screeds, says John Sunkenberg, road industry manager for Volvo Construction Equipment.
These "cleaner and greener" screeds have been around the large asphalt paver market for nearly 15 years and have entered into the commercial paver market in the last three years, says John Hood, Bomag Americas' sales manager for paving and milling products in the United States.
The screed seems to be getting the most attention when it comes to innovations. In addition to electric screeds, manufacturers such as Dynapac are incorporating dual screeds to help compact asphalt. "Dynapac's Compact Asphalt unit has dual screeds which allows you to lay two lifts of asphalt," says Tom Chastain, Dynapac's product manager for paving and milling. "By laying these lifts simultaneously it offers better integration of the mix design and better adhesion for a stronger surface."
Another screed option is a high-density screed such as the tamping bar screeds used in Europe. These high-density screeds precompact materials before screeding, eliminating a portion of the compaction differential, Sunkenberg says. Manufacturers agree that these high-density screeds might become the standard for future asphalt pavers, and manufacturers, such as Vogele and Volvo, have or are looking to begin incorporating these screeds on their pavers in the U.S. market.
Another huge trend for asphalt paver manufacturers is a focus on operator comfort. "As manufacturers we're all trying to figure out 'If I was running this paver, would I be comfortable sitting here for eight to 10 hours a day operating. And if I put someone new in that operator's station are the controls simple enough or laid out well enough,'" Chastain says.
Ergonomics, visibility, and comfort are all playing important roles in new paver manufacturing and updates to current paver lines already on the market. For example, Bomag updated its 800 Series pavers with a lower profile for visibility and operator controls that can be adjusted to a more comfortable position for the paver operator.
Another trend is in ease of ownership responsibilities and costs. Manufacturers are incorporating longer-life wear components and fewer maintenance points on their asphalt pavers, says Vogele America's General Manager Brodie Hutchins. "Contractors used to rebuild pavers every year whether they needed to or not. Now they're wanting to extend rebuilds for two seasons or more," he says. Along with fewer maintenance points, some manufacturers are including an auto-lubrication option on pavers. This can help save the contractor time by requiring less daily manual maintenance.
One trend both paving contractors and manufacturers have been pursuing for years is a "universal paver." "Everyone is looking for a Swiss Army Knife type of paver," Hood says.
Not only are contractors looking for a paver that can do small and larger commercial and residential jobs, some are also looking for a paver that can handle more than just asphalt. "Contractors in some areas want to go into roller compacted concrete and cement-treated base, so they're looking for versatility and utilization in 'asphalt' pavers," Hutchins says.