“Screeds are now easier to learn how to operate. It’s easier for a newer guy to learn how to produce a good mat,” says Whitley.
Automatic functions ease work
Automatic paver functions make it easier to operate the machine more consistently. Some functions, such as automatic tensioning of track and conveyor chains, help extend the life of wear parts. Other automatic functions improve job quality.
The integration of computer technology into pavers has played a large role, as well. CANBUS, which connects the electronic control units, has enabled diagnostic systems for maintenance to become standard.
For example, computer technology helps manage data from the engine. Knowing when and how to manage the engine helps set the pace to manage other subsystems on the paver, says Whitley. He adds that computers are important for diagnostics, allowing the user to diagnose and troubleshoot equipment problems quickly.
Capabilities such as GPS for fleet management allow contractors to track the location of a machine, the number of hours and performance details such as engine temperature, engine oil level and pressure, coolant pressure and more. “This allows maintenance managers and contractors the ability to keep an eye on all the units from a distance and know when maintenance or repairs are needed,” says Hutchins.
Mat quality is also benefiting from automation. “Automatic functions are improving job quality,” says Hood. “They help the contractor constantly maintain a head of material across the front of the screed. That means there are no voids and no one has to be back there shoveling mix to fill areas in front of the screed.”
Automatic features developed for highway class pavers (e.g., grade and slope controls) are also available for commercial machines. “But many smaller paving operations may not use them, because they do not have a need for such sophisticated equipment on the smaller equipment or smaller jobsites,” Hutchins indicates.
When automated systems such as GPS and non-contact sensors are used, accuracy improves. “Many of these features have become very integrated with the paving process and even with the equipment,” Hutchins says. “These tools enable contractors to achieve high levels of accuracy in terms of profile for the road.”
Sonics for grade and slope control or auger and material control are seeing more use on commercial pavers. “Variable auger speed and conveyor speed provide a consistent head of material to the screed,” says Sunkenberg. “That was more popular on the highway machines, but it’s working its way to the commercial pavers because the concept is the same. A consistent load of material equates to a consistent mat.