Paving Technologies Impact Industry in 2022
BY Emily Newton
The last two years have been challenging for members of the construction industry. While this might seem frustrating, the environment has provided a platform for invention and innovation. Here’s an overview of six paving technologies that are sure to continue their impact on the industry in 2022 and beyond.
3D Paving Control
While the goal of any paving project is to provide an even and smooth surface, that isn’t always easy when the underlying surface is rough and uneven. Instead of placing an initial leveling course, then assessing the surface and seeing where problems are occurring, 3D paving control systems give the operator the tools to easily match the planned design and make adjustments in real-time as necessary through variable depth paving.
In addition to these real-time controls, there is the option to download additional apps or install other third-party programs to give the 3D paving controls more flexibility and usability. Using these control programs can reduce the amount of asphalt used during the first layer, which can reduce waste and make it easier for companies to finish their projects faster and more efficiently than ever before.
One of these programs, a product created by Trimble Roadworks, is proving its effectiveness in the paving industry and will likely continue to do so in 2022 and beyond.
Project Management Software
Traditionally, most paving projects were planned out in spreadsheets. While this is functional, it isn’t always efficient—especially for larger projects. Instead of trying to do everything manually, opting for project management software can make an enormous difference in project efficiency. Project management software has already found a home in the construction industry, but it’s also beginning to make an impact in the paving industry as well.
Project management software takes multiple planning tools and consolidates them into a single, easy-to-access location. In addition, these programs make it easier to keep track of all the complex details that accompany these projects, making it easy to fix problems or make adjustments on the fly.
Many cloud-based programs also give project managers the option and ability to access their data from a mobile app or website, so it’s easier to keep things running smoothly while on the go. These programs are beginning to emerge as an invaluable tool for every construction-adjacent industry, and will likely be a valuable asset for paving contractors moving forward.
Smart Pavement and Nanotechnology
It’s easy to think big when it comes to new technologies, but in some cases, it’s important to think small—and in this case, the innovations are too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Nanotechnology is beginning to make its mark on the paving industry in a variety of applications, including the adhesive damping technology discussed in the 2018 article from Newtonoid Technologies. Smart pavement is now being explored as a tool to continuously monitor infrastructure health, by equipping the pavement with “weigh in motion” capabilities. Infusing this technology into the pavement when it’s put down allows the piezoelectric sensors to collect data about the cars and trucks traversing a stretch of highway, as well as the overall health of the pavement.
Smart pavement that can remotely charge electric vehicles is also in the prototyping phase. These wireless chargers—similar to the chargers that might power a phone—may be able to top off EV batteries as the car drives over them. The Indiana Department of Transportation is working on a quarter-mile-long testing track with concrete, but you can see the world’s first smart road built in Sweden at the Green Car Reports website.
Paver-Mounted Thermal Profiling
A road may look perfectly paved to the naked eye, but that smooth surface could be hiding problems that may manifest once the road is in use. Quality control technicians can use thermal cameras, infrared sensors, or a combination of the two to ensure the temperature of the asphalt mix being placed is within acceptable margins. While it is possible to monitor surface temperatures using a handheld IR thermometer, it isn’t possible to measure more than one spot at a time with the industry’s preferred accuracy.
Paver-mounted thermal profiling (PMTP) setups can scan the entire section being paved, often beyond the width of the paver. In general, these scanners will break up the entire project into 30 x 30 cm grids, monitoring the temperature automatically. If there is an issue detected anywhere, it’s easy for these systems to flag them so they can be addressed, either immediately or once the paving is complete.
This temperature monitoring could also be valuable once self-healing asphalt becomes more common, especially for designs that incorporate iron filings that will heat up and melt the bitumen in the asphalt as a tool for healing small cracks and crevices in the pavement.
First, let us understand that intelligent compaction (IC) applies to both soil compaction—to provide a solid and stable surface for paving—and to asphalt pavement compaction to provide a smooth and optimally dense surface. Drum rollers and other tools for compaction have been a staple within the industry for decades. Until recently, achieving compaction relied primarily on operator experience and manual monitoring. After success in European paving markets, IC is a technology that has found its niche in the U.S. paving industry.
The goal of IC is to improve the compaction process. In general, though, IC is defined as hardware, software, and analysis programs that are installed on rollers and other compacting technology to assess the densification of the material. These additions allow rollers to actively monitor the soil or asphalt layer they are compacting, and even make adjustments to the rolling pattern or compactive forces on the fly.
The buzz right now is about autonomous or self-driving cars, but these tools are good for more than just navigating someone’s morning commute. Autonomous vehicles are beginning to showcase their usefulness and viability in a number of different industries, including paving. SANY recently debuted a small fleet of autonomous rollers and pavers in the Xiong’an New Area of China where seven machines were remote-controlled from a mobile base station and control room.
When paired with automatic levels and other automatic tools and sensors that can monitor the land under construction in real-time, these autonomous pavers could potentially reshape the way paving companies approach these projects. In the United States, where there are thousands of miles of highways in need of refurbishment, self-driving pavers could help pick up some of the slack and make it easier for paving contractors to handle the growing demand. While autonomous paving may prove to be a valuable tool in the future, it hasn’t been tested in active work zones and its safety parameters have yet to be defined in these settings.
Looking Beyond 2022
2020 and 2021 have been challenging for everyone, but from that challenge have sprung remarkable innovations that will continue to shape the paving industry for years to come. With the infrastructure bill now a reality, the paving industry has its next few years of work already laid out.
In the pages to follow, please check out an assortment of immediately available paving and pavement maintenance-related products and services.
Emily Newton is an industrial writer with over five years of experience covering stories in the industrial sector.