Innovation is a familiar concept for Claypave Pty. Ltd., Brisbane, Australia. According to Claypave’s chairman of the board, John Peile, a trend toward larger pavers over the last five years has forced the company to be creative in its product offerings. Although Claypave’s 9 x 9 in. pavers have become increasingly popular, many consumers are choosing 20 x 20 in. concrete pavers instead because of their larger size. The company installed a new Swindell Dressler tunnel kiln in 2001 to allow it to produce 18 x 9 in. clay pavers, enabling it to better compete in the market for large pavers. Claypave is also investing in Internet marketing to expand its products on a global scale.
Baggeridge Brick plc in West Midlands, England, has also been forced to innovate its product line to remain competitive. According to Alan Baxter, managing director of Baggeridge Brick, the increasing use of “system building” in Europe has made brick an unattractive option because it requires so much time and labor to install. To overcome this challenge, Baggeridge Brick launched a natural clay cladding system called Corium® in September 2001 that combines the aesthetic beauty of traditional brickwork with the construction benefits of a fast-track cladding system. The system comprises profiled brick tiles that lock into plastic-coated steel backing sections, and the finished sections can be fixed to a range of sub-structures, including timber, steel, concrete and traditional masonry (for refurbishment applications). The product allows brickwork elevations to be completed faster—independent analysis has shown that designing with Corium can help cut cladding build programs by up to one third compared to conventional brick installations. According to Baxter, the resulting brickwork also tends to look better than conventionally mortared brick walls.
At Pine Hall Brick Co.’s Plant 5 in Madison, N.C., it was the burners rather than the natural gas supply that were creating problems with the consistency of the company’s pavers. According to Pine Hall’s Steven Knisley, the company was operating two pulse-fired Harrop kilns with SLNG Hauck burners. When the “salt and pepper” (white) tips on the burners began to oxidize, the company replaced them with new silicon carbide tips, but the burners began to fail in part of the kiln soon after the tips had been replaced. The company discovered that the replacement tips were too small (-12) for the -15 burners. It installed larger tips and immediately began producing a more consistent product.
For Cunningham Brick Co. in Grover, N.C., a hydraulic “Effie”-type setting machine was preventing the company from increasing its efficiencies in product changeovers. The plant produces 18 different colors of brick in eight different sizes with four different textures. Limit switches were everywhere, and they all had to be manually moved for every size change. According to Greg Grabert, Cunningham Brick’s technical services manager, the company replaced the hydraulics with electricity and added a programmable logic controller with a touch-screen monitor. Now product changeovers are done much more quickly at the push of a button.
Boral Bricks’ new clay paver plant in Augusta, Ga., was a revamp of an older Keller plant. It features two new 16-car dryers and a Keller kiln modified by Swindell Dressler. According to Charlie McNeil, Boral’s vice president of manufacturing, Swindell Dressler moved the burners from the crown to the sidewalls to increase firing efficiency and also added a new deck to the old Keller kiln cars to facilitate under-car firing. Other equipment in the plant includes a J.C. Steele 75 extruder, robots and an automated dehacker from J C Smale & Co., kiln car handling equipment from Swindell Dressler and a dry lime injection scrubber from Procedair. The plant runs seven days per week with one shift per day and 20 employees.
A renovation of Acme Brick Co.’s 50-year-old Kanopolis, Kan., plant enabled the facility to increase production to 30 million brick per year. A Torit Model DFT2-12 downflow dust collection system designed by Kirk & Blum helps ensure that the air in the plant remains dust-free. A Hauck pulse firing system was installed in 1999, along with Kromschroder solenoid butterfly valves to facilitate pulsing. According to Tony Neeves, Acme Brick’s Midwest regional production manager, the changes have enabled the plant to reduce both product losses and fuel consumption.
With the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule looming, a number of companies are beginning to investigate scrubbers. Brick & Tile of Lawrenceville in Lawrenceville, Va., recently ran a pilot test of CECO Filters’ Catenary Grid wet scrubber. According to Leon Williams, senior vice president of production, the system was able to achieve > 95% removal efficiencies of both hydrogen fluoride and hydrogen chloride, and it efficiently scrubbed gases and filtered out particulate without requiring frequent flushing. However, the amount of water required to operate the system, as well as the resulting wastewater, could pose a problem for some companies. Williams cautioned that “one size won’t fit all” when it comes to scrubbers—every plant will have its own conditions and requirements, and companies should carefully investigate all of the available options.
A number of additives can be used to improve extrusion, increase green strength and reduce shrinkage. According to Stu Weller of Hanson Brick, Columbia, S.C., the type of additive used depends on a specific plant’s material and process. Hanson Brick uses soda ash, lignosulfonate and protein colloids at its various plants, depending on the conditions and economics, and all three provide benefits.
Other topics discussed at the forum included the use of preheated combustion air to reduce fuel consumption, the importance of preventative maintenance in maximizing the life of grinding equipment, and the benefits of leasing versus buying manufacturing equipment.
Editor’s note: The 49th International Brick Plant Operator’s Forum will be held September 29-October 1, 2003, at the Littlejohn Coliseum on the Clemson University campus in Clemson, S.C. For more information about the forum or to purchase videotapes of the 2002 presentations, contact Dr. Denis A. Brosnan, program chairman, National Brick Research Center, P.O. Box 613, Pendleton, SC 29670; (864) 656-1094; fax (864) 656-1095; e-mail brick@Clemson.edu; or visit http://www.brickandtile.org.