DEXTER, Maine, Sept. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Through the enumeration of equipment available in the quality control world for aggregates and aggregate production, Advanced Concepts & Engineering (www.advconeng.com) is rapidly solidifying their rightful seat as the coming global leader in automated aggregate quality control testing.
Lead under the studious eye of Joel Costonis - President and Founder - Advanced Concepts & Engineering [aka ACE] continues to prove that ACE will be a force to be reckoned with. Having gone from design, to engineering, to proof of concept to defining ACE's dominance in a head to head time-to-test competition against standard method AASHTO/ASTM methods T11/C117 and T27/C136, Costonis has the eye of the industry watching as the ACE Auto-Grade clearly declares its advantage.
This past summer, Costonis arranged a head to head challenge where he positioned the ACE Auto-Grade against standard equipment and a seasoned technician to conduct standard gradations. The clear difference in a reduction of time-to-test, with the ACE Auto-Grade completing the test 48% faster than the standard, it was clear that the ACE Auto-Grade has begun to claim its place as the coming standard in automated testing.
We asked Costonis to describe the process he has gone through in developing the ACE Auto-Grade. "..fun, challenging, exciting and rewarding. This unit quickly reminds one of the old adage that if it were easy, someone would have already done it." Adding the he, his 'right hand man' Bruce Bushey, Director of Automation, and the rest of his team have "many, many thousands of hours, rewrites, and revisions committed."
He goes on to add, "As a young man, I was taught by my father [Dr. Anthony Costonis] that one should do something they excel in, and be good at what you do. Having almost 20 years in the industry, I made it a point to literally work every facet of the [asphalt] industry. I pushed more than my share of wheelbarrows, raked tons of asphalt, rolled miles of road way, the first paver I ever ran was a 1964 Barber Green. After years of being on the road, I crossed into operations, production and quality control. This unit was born on a Friday night in July when I was waiting on a test and thought there must be a better way. Years later here we are."
Looking for further information as to the level of technology included in the ACE Auto-Grade, we sought further information. "The ACE Auto-Grade is not simply a mechanical device, it's a solution. In the industry, time-to-test can mean the difference between a great week of paving or many thousands of dollars in penalties and/or rework. First we perfected the automation of the test, then we sped it up. Well, now that we had a faster test, we moved on to the generated data and what to do with it. In summary, for example a post burn gradation; from the time the sample is loaded and the report is automatically emailed to the road, the plant, the supervisor and anyone else that wants the test, only 11 minutes has gone by. Not to mention the fact that the sample can go directly from the oven to the ACE Auto-Grade."
When looking at the unit, it's easy to see there has been considerable engineering mastery involved. When asked about the internal systems, following a confident smile, Costonis states, "As can be easily seen, there are numerous elements combined in proprietary combination.
Through superior engineering, proprietary software orchestrating automation in all of the items you see before you, the ACE Auto-Grade firmly delivers a first to market product guided by our trademarked Total Integration Total Automation Protocol. The design features of the ACE Auto-Grade introduce a whole new level of flexibility and mobility to aggregate testing requiring nothing more than a generator and a bucket of water to operate. It is worthy of mention that the system demands a standard 120v 15A service so the user is not required to provide dedicated services. 220volt or 50 cycle service is available as well."
When talking with Costonis, he shows his feeling that his dedication to this process he has been on for over a decade is led by a passion to enable the industry at large to produce a superior product that will help insure the protection of infrastructure. "My job is not to remove the technician. My job is to give the technician the tools they need to properly evaluate the composition of the materials being used in their production. One cannot fault a technician if the methodology being used is antiquated and inherently flawed by the very institution that governs the standards."
I asked for further explanation. After looking through the collection of data in his office, Costonis states "First one needs to acknowledge the fact that in an average gradation, the material being tested is handled a staggering 14 times to conduct one test; moving it from a pan to the sieves, to the pan to the scale and on and on. Using the ACE Auto-Grade, the technician loads the sample at the beginning and unloads it when the test is done. One test, one sample, handled one time. Beyond the human error factor that usually throws most tests – most of the time without the technician even knowing - there are multiple areas in each testing procedure that require study. For example, this is a copy of the original challenge to the methods I submitted to ASTM. When looking at the ASTM regulation specifically, the C136 regulation states quote 'Also, samples may be dried at the higher temperatures associated with the use of hot plates without affecting results, provided steam escapes without generating pressures sufficient to fracture the particles, and temperatures are not so great as to cause chemical breakdown of the aggregate. Their own regulation defines the problem.
The addition of heat manifests numerous integral challenges to the process. Heat, in and of itself, has the probable ability to throw details of the test [being conducted] off on multiple aspects. Without doing too much study on the probability of aggregate fracture from heat, the standard itself indicates the inherent risk of the very method it mandates.
Naturalist Ethan Shaw of Oregon reports that even minor temperature variations (>100F) seen at high elevations result in broken boulders and rocks. Thermal Stress on different types of aggregate – while in a conductive heat setting as hot plates etc – invites thermal shock thereby instituting rapid thermal fatigue in the specimen being studied.
We don't dry by heat. In basic science we know that heat destroys and cold preserves. We dry by evaporation. When our samples are dry – on average 35% faster than an oven, they are cold, thereby preserved with no sample degradation."
Seeing the unit, watching it work in conjunction with Costonis' dialogues, it is clear to the observer that he has employed top of the line electro-mechanical process equipment. Now about the data.
In an aggregate lab, one gets used to seeing certain items. Some used for testing, office equipment etc. Distinctly missing from the in-house lab at Advanced Concepts & Engineering is the all too common collection of pencils, calculators, collection of notes and a collection of papers being shuffled. Having used the unit first hand, the environment is clearly different. When asked to expound of the preceding, again we are again greeted by the Costonis smile of determination. Referring back to his research papers, Costonis states "Dr. Randy West of the National Center for Asphalt Technology calls for a need to 'reduce the time lag for quality control information, and to improve the reliability of the data.'
Dr. West, as well as many other industry leaders fully acknowledge the fact that 'most of the tests used in QC and acceptance testing suffer from poor precision. Part of the poor precision is attributable to sampling and testing variability which are related to the skill and ability of technicians'. As I said before, it's my job to empower the technician and remove the time stealing processes. The unit is employed with our proprietary software that not only conducts the test, but completes all calculations required to deliver a certifiable result then delivers the same through an automated email system via the onboard WiFI. A notable portion of test failures are the result of miscalculations and things of such. Pencils, paper, calculators. We don't use them here. The unit produces the standard Power 45 reports internally with no prompting of the user allowing them to move on the next test."
"I suppose if one really wanted to double check the report, the system interface is a Windows 10 fully functional computer with a calculator and Excel on it," Costonis finishes with a confident grin.
I truly enjoyed my time at Advanced Concepts & Engineering. When I questioned Costonis about the seemingly difficult task of having clients enjoy the ACE Auto-Grade as I did, he states that ACE will host showcases allowing folks to "play with the units" directly, even running a sample that they can bring to the showcase.
Costonis will be speaking at the ASTM meeting at the SeaWorld Renaissance Hotel in Orlando [Dec 4th through the 9th]. I would encourage you to attend as the ACE Auto-Grade [and ACE staff] will be in the Zander Room at SeaWorld Renaissance Orlando Monday through 8:00 am through 6:00 pm.
He further adds that as of this past Thursday, he has been invited to put on a seminar at the Texas Asphalt Paving Association in January 2017.
After spending a day with Costonis, one can clearly see that there has been nothing overlooked through ACE's proprietary Total Integration Total Automation Protocol™. It seems to me that the ACE Auto-Grade - through its futuristic appearance, welcoming voice (yes, the unit even talks to the user), automated reporting and more – has defined that the future has arrived in portable automated testing.
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SOURCE Advanced Concepts & Engineering