Automation is nothing new to block and paver producers. Most new plants feature loads of labor-efficient devices, starting with aggregate batchers and ending with finished product palletizing. But one aspect of the plant that stills demands a good deal of human interaction is quality control.
In fact, timely quality control results are even more important in today's fast production facilities. New blockmaking machines feature quick mold changes, meaning that slow measurements can result in pallets of unwanted culls.
Stan Schoonover, an engineer, noticed the need to automate quality control when he discovered that the standard practice for paver and block producers was to measure block height manually.
So for the last two years, he has been introducing producers to a laser measurement technology that speeds production and enhances quality.
Schoonover's laser measuring system is called the BlockQualifier. The system is just one of the specialty devices The SCS Group of Waynesboro, Pa., supplies for blockmakers in North America. The company also manufactures mold and pallet cleaning equipment.
Schoonover says producers are slowly but surely seeing the benefits of his new system. “We gave a demonstration yesterday at a paver plant in Boston,” he explains. “Almost immediately, we discovered that the unit's height was off by 1 mm. The producer didn't believe we could be that accurate, but after a few minutes of hand measuring, he found that we were right.”
How it works
BlockQualifier measures the height of freshly cast concrete masonry units and pavers from an overhead position as they are carried on the pallet exiting the block machine. It uses a triangulation method that provides a measurement within 0.5 mm. Through special software, the unit displays the measurement on an easy-to-read display monitor located next to the plant operator.
The main front panel screen shows the just-measured unit as seen from a top view of the pallets as they move along the conveyor from the block machine. It displays the block height measurements, allowing the operator an almost instant opportunity to reset the block machine before the next cycle. The system also allows the operator to preconfigure its measurement range for any number of sizes, shapes, and pallet loading patterns.
Schoonover's system is more than a pass/fail device. His unique software also provides the operator with a profile view of the blocks by graphically showing the height measurements in relation to the high and low quality limits. Operators favor this view because it shows any slant or taper from front to back of the blocks that were molded on that pass.
Schoonover says some producers have discovered another reason to use his measuring device—safety. The operator monitors height measurements as the blocks exit the block machine without having to leave his station. “The device eliminates the employee's exposure of standing next to a moving conveyor, or working in a high noise zone,” he says.