Blog April 24, 2020

Wireless Concrete Sensors for Precast

When it comes to choosing the right type of concrete for your project, you’re left with two main options: in-situ (or cast-in-place) or precast. Cast-in-place concrete can be thought of as the more traditional concreting method. It’s what we see most often when we drive by a construction site, with concrete pouring out of the rotating drum of a mixer truck and into a mould on-site. Precast concrete, on the other hand, is fabricated in a manufacturing plant and transported to the site as needed. Think of it like individual building blocks being put together to form the entirety of the structure. You’ll see precast concrete used more for low to mid-rise residential and commercial buildings or transportation infrastructure projects like bridges and tunnels. 

Regardless of what method you choose for your next project, the common denominator is the fact that they’re both tied down by the natural properties of concrete, and that includes its curing process. Since cast-in-place concrete happens in an open environment, it takes up to 28 days to fully cure, and that number can fluctuate depending on the environmental or atmospheric conditions of the job-site. Precast concrete, on the other hand, is manufactured in a controlled setting off-site, and “elements” (the building blocks mentioned above) are cured inside isolated chambers where heat is trapped to accelerate the curing process. It’s for this reason that precast elements are ready in less than a day and can be shipped out and installed on-site in a very short period of time. 

So far we’ve only explored the applications of wireless concrete sensors for cast-in-place concrete. But what can they bring to the world of precast concreting? 

Regardless of what type of wireless concrete sensors you use, the actual process of installing and using them is almost the exact same for both cast-in-place and precast concreting, with embedded sensors transmitting data directly to you over the air while the concrete is being cured. But for precast, the real benefits of using wireless concrete sensors come in the form of two major factors: reliability and automated data collection

Reliability

Like we mentioned earlier, a precast fabrication plant is a very controlled environment. Most precasters implement what’s called “accelerated curing”, a process designed to increase the overall output of their elements. During the heating process, heat needs to be applied uniformly at a steady rate of between 20F and 40F every hour. Elements can reach very high internal temperatures, and with the added moisture being trapped inside the curing chambers, it can be difficult to get any accurate readings from standard temperature measurement equipment like thermocouples.

Wireless concrete sensors, on the other hand, are designed for harsh environments and have ruggedized enclosures that can withstand high temperatures and moisture levels. Plus – as their name suggests – they don’t require any hard-wired connections to external readers or data hubs. The information they collect is instantly transmitted to you over the air, available to access at any time from your mobile device. Intelligent battery management systems also allow these sensors to operate well beyond the manufacturing lead time of a single precast element, so plant managers can be confident that their data will always be collected and stored at any point in the manufacturing process. This is especially important as it ties directly to the second benefit of wireless concrete sensors.

Automated Data Collection

One of the biggest advantages that wireless concrete sensors bring to the industry as a whole is automated data collection and processing. These devices are able to measure multiple parameters of your concrete elements at the same time and with much higher accuracy than typical measurement tools. You can save valuable time that would otherwise be spent manually measuring and recording data, further streamlining the overall fabrication process. Plus, sophisticated analytics software takes advantage of the large amounts of data collected from wireless concrete sensors to create detailed reports and insights into each and every one of your elements. You can also set up automated report sharing which seamlessly sends detailed reports to project stakeholders, a feature that helps you meet increasingly stringent reporting requirements. 

Similar Purpose, Unique Benefits

Although wireless concrete sensors serve similar purposes in both concreting methods, the specific benefits that they bring to the precast method increase productivity and allow you to meet quality standards, all while saving on time and cost. Their ruggedized assemblies and wireless connectivity give you the confidence to accurately monitor each of your elements as they move through the fabrication process. Plus, with the help of advanced software, you can gain valuable insights and analytics, and easily share them with your stakeholders. 

Want to learn more about how you can use Wireless Concrete Sensors in your next project? Schedule a call today and find out!