Many developments in compaction equipment have been the result of developments in other fields - materials or electronics, for example - that have enabled manufacturers of rollers and plates to make great strides in improving the compaction operation for contractors.
Frank Wenzel, vice president of engineering for Stone Construction Equipment, says efforts to improve the productivity and reduce the cost of compaction equipment are ongoing, with the main focus being to help contractors do a more effective job. Innovations are usually tested and fine-tuned on larger highway rollers, but as innovations are perfected and accepted on the larger machines it doesn't take long for them to make their way to the parking lot and driveway contractor.
Wenzel says a good example is vibration, noting there has been a shift from static to vibratory rollers among commercial pavers. "Although vibratory rollers have been around for some time it took a while for their popularity to trickle down to the smaller roller market," Wenzel says.
"All technology, with the exception of intelligent compaction, has trickled down to the smaller rollers," says John Hood, Bomag Americas. "Today's rollers provide much smoother operation, the electronics controls and hydraulics system are much improved, and ergonomics are just as important on a small roller as on a big one. As technology moves forward it's being integrated on equipment industry-wide."
Materials & Components
Some of the most important developments are in the materials and components that make up compaction equipment because those developments have led manufacturers to a host of innovations that have benefitted contractors.
Electronics & hydraulics. Dave Schulenberg, Wacker Neuson product manager, says developments in the quality, durability, and performance of hydraulic motors and pumps and the rapid development and acceptance of electronics have played a significant role in moving the compaction industry forward.
"The combination of electric and hydraulic components can simplify operation and improve performance in a smaller package," Schulenberg says. "Improved hydraulic efficiency means less fuel is required to do the job, and it means the job can be done faster."
He says new electronics are more sophisticated, more durable, and require less maintenance. "When you bought an engine 25 years ago it had points that you had to adjust. Today that's all solid state electronics."
Bob Marcum, Volvo product specialist for road machinery, says improved electronics have enabled manufacturers to better manage water usage in its rollers. "Operators can manage the water system so we're not pumping at maximum flow the whole time the system is on," he says. "That way we can make the water last longer, increasing productivity."
Schulenberg says advances in electronics have also enabled manufacturers to offer a pressurized water system with multiple spray settings. "The operator can adjust the water flow to keep the asphalt from sticking to the roller and so there's not so much water consumed that he runs out and has to stop to refill."
And improvements in safety are also a result. He says an "operator presence" system that recognizes when the operator isn't sitting in the seat would not be possible without electronics advances. "If the operator is off the seat the system will immobilize the roller," he says.
Schulenberg says advances in hydraulic technology made more power available to the roller, which means manufacturers can design machines that offer higher vibration frequency and greater centrifugal force. "That results in greater productivity and better finish performance."