No matter what industry you work in, change is inevitable. The paving industry is no exception. One area where change seems to be a constant is in equipment. Manufacturers are constantly producing new equipment or updating features on older machines. Asphalt Contractor decided to take a look at the small and mid-sized paver markets to see what changes and trends are occurring with these pavers.
The consensus seems to be that trends in these markets are filtering down from the larger highway-class pavers. Improved features from larger pavers are starting to be seen on smaller equipment and, in some instances, are even becoming standard for the small and mid-sized pavers.
Brodie Hutchins, general manager for Vogele America, says the reason for this trend is that contractors are starting to stretch the intended use of smaller pavers. Although this may save a contractor in costs, it also causes a paver to work harder resulting in quicker wear. However, manufacturers are taking notice of how contractors are stretching these smaller pavers, and new features are being added to increase the pavers’ usability.
For example, Hutchins says Vogele’s small pavers are now being made with more advanced automation and electric heat in screeds. In the mid-sized market, increased horsepower and more comfortable features and amenities are being added.
Vogele has adopted some of these trends for its Super 700 utility paver, according to Hutchins. The Super 700 is a small paver with a 4-foot paving width, but it also has features found on larger pavers. “It’s got the robust features of a big machine. With those demands we have to make the machines tougher and last longer,” he says. The Super 700 has a generator for electric heat and an integrated leveling system with the controls so that it just plugs right into the machine.
The integrated leveling system gives the paver more precision on the mat. “It makes contractors’ lives easier. With material management, they don’t have to do as many things feeding the machine. They kind of put the machine on autopilot because the augers and conveyors really monitor themselves, and the leveling allows the screed to do its own thing,” Hutchins says.
The Super 700’s hopper has been designed so it can do several different jobs, he adds. This helps the paver to accommodate different types of work such as tight places or shoulder work. With Vogele’s mid-sized pavers - the 2111W, 2116T, and 2116W - Hutchins says they will soon have more maintenance free features common on larger pavers.
Contractors doing larger jobs where precision is important are going to benefit from Vogele’s improvements to its equipment, Hutchins says. And although Vogele originally thought the Super 700 would be purchased mostly by commercial contractors, Hutchins says the customer base is actually split between commercial paving, highway paving, and utility contractors. The Super 700 allows these contractors to do jobs other than the main large job, he adds.
A focus on electronics is another noticeable trend in the small and mid-sized paver markets. VT LeeBoy, for example, offers electronic steering in its 8500, 8510, 8515, and 8816 conveyor fed paver models, according to Mike Lee, VT LeeBoy research and development. LeeBoy has also introduced the Legend Electric Screed heating system to these pavers.
This screed heating system uses an electric generator instead of propane to heat the screed. “The electric screed heat eliminates fumes, flame, and fuel and is safer and easier to use for the operator,” Lee says. “Electric heat is more evenly distributed across the length of the main screed plate and extension plates,” he adds.
Electric screed heat was originally a feature on LeeBoy’s larger highway pavers, but it is now an option for its mid-sized pavers. Lee says propane heat can create hot spots, and inconsistent heat from propane can cause streaks in the mat or even cause the screed plate to warp. Electric heating is one way to eliminate these problems.