A major staging-point: the final information event for the SmartSite project in Filderstadt. Guests from political bodies at local, state and federal level, representatives of the consortium partners and many specialists from the road construction and construction machinery sectors toured the “intelligent” construction site that was presented by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as the result of this three-year research project. Teams from the consortium partners demonstrated the construction of state highway L1205 between Sielmingen and Wolfschlugen under real conditions: the work was carried out in its entirety with the help of a cloud-based solution for construction process control. Topcon Deutschland Positioning, the technology partner, carried out the extensive survey work on the site and handled individual preparation of all data required for each site employee. Ammann played its part with rollers featuring intelligent control and an intelligent plant control unit for the asphalt mixing plant.
The ‘Schweizer Baum & Garten’ garden centre: an idyllic setting, high above Stuttgart in the Filder region – and ideal weather for site work. The scene was set for a visionary occasion: the final information event for the SmartSite project. The road construction methods of the future were demonstrated in real time, under real conditions, at this ideal location in the immediate vicinity of state highway L1205. Well over 100 fascinated visitors were able to see a convincing live demonstration, here on the spot, of the perfectly synchronised site operations that will create the “road of the future”. This research project has taken a total of three years and was supported with funding of EUR 2.96 million from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). At its conclusion, the consortium partners showed how their research results can be put into practice on a “real” road. This marks the evolution of the research project into an actual construction process that will prove its quality in everyday applications in the future.
Transport Minister Winfried Hermann is looking forward to these developments: “The SmartSite project demonstrates the next step towards the future: networking of all the elements in asphalt road construction. So SmartSite is a project that jointly benefits the construction sector and the road construction authorities. I congratulate everyone involved on this successful outcome.”
There are some key differences between this site and conventional construction sites: mixing plants, trucks, feeders, pavers and rollers all play their parts here. On this site, however, all the machines are networked with one another via a cloud-based construction process control solution that continuously updates itself. In practice, this means that all the processes are intelligently intercoordinated: the mixing plant produces the exact quantity of asphalt at the defined time, and loads it onto the trucks – which are also synchronised. The trucks set out for the feeder, which they supply punctually with the precisely defined quantity – and then the feeder passes it on to the paver at optimal temperatures. This enables the paver team to lay the asphalt at ideal temperatures. Next comes the roller with intelligent compaction measurement, so the asphalt layer is compacted to exactly the right dimensions. High-precision sensors measure material rigidity, temperature, the compaction energy produced by the roller and the number of traverses. Weather data is also incorporated into the planning: if rain or a high wind are imminent, the system reports this and the machine operators can react accordingly.
What was demonstrated on the site for the first time with this degree of complexity was complete networking of all machine and plant operators involved in the process, as well as their machines and plant – all the way through to autonomous operation of the roller. And everyone involved is certain that this approach will become the standard on large construction sites within just a few years. Roads built using smart technology offer longer service lifetimes; they use fewer resources, with guaranteed process transparency and fewer obstructions to traffic due to closures or narrow passageways through construction sites.
The objectives are to handle installation quickly with high precision and efficient use of resources, and to ensure sustainability. Almost without exception, data exchange of this sort on construction sites has only ever taken place on paper, so it is not suitable for adjustments and changes.
Many small details such as the exact progression of the terrain, the quantities and temperature of the delivered asphalt and the installation heights have a major impact on the quality of the finished road – so a site with intelligent control and networking harbours enormous potential. As Dr. Burkhard Seizer, Project Manager at Drees & Sommer stressed in his welcome address, investigations have shown that a road lasts for up to 30% longer if the processed asphalt is at a constant temperature.
Ulrich Hermanski, Vice President Construction Business EMEA at Topcon Positioning, emphasises the critical importance of Topcon’s participation in SmartSite: “We’ve been working on this subject for many years already – our AutoBauLog for logistics control was our first project in this field. We’d already struck up some contacts through collaboration with Hohenheim University, so our participation in the consortium was ultimately the logical next step for Topcon. We’re delighted that we were able to make a major contribution to the success of the SmartSite project with our data acquisition systems.”
Topcon’s expertise played a critical part in ensuring that the SmartSite project was implemented with such outstanding success. Thanks to high-precision capture of the entire terrain with UAS systems such as the Falcon 8 octocopter, the Sirius Pro and the car-mounted IP-S3 3D data acquisition system, precise data was made available and stored in the system to guarantee smooth planning. All operators of mixing plants, feeders and pavers as well as the truck drivers and – finally – the roller operators had the data required for their activities available on the display. Thanks to this data, the quantities of asphalt required at the paver can also be calculated. In an ideal case, the paver should never be at a standstill; it should always be fed with the right quantity of material at the right temperature and should slowly work its way forwards, followed directly by the roller (which is also networked), to compact the blacktop to the correct dimensions. Data comparison in the cloud is continuously updated, so a target/actual comparison is always available.
The real-time compaction measurement process that is familiar from Ammann’s rollers (ACE) is combined with the Topcon display solution so – at a glance – the roller operator can always see his own path, the areas still to be compacted and all traverses. As Thilo Ohlraun, Sales Manager at Ammann, emphasises: “Thanks to the display, our roller operators always have all the relevant values in view. The combination with our compaction measurement system means that our drivers – and the system – always know which areas have already been optimally compacted and those which need another traverse.”
Several renowned consortium partners were involved in this three-year research project: Drees & Sommer was responsible for overall control. Various partners representing the industry took part, including Topcon Deutschland Positioning: this company deployed a varied range of measurement systems to survey the entire site with maximum accuracy, and it also monitored all the key parameters during installation. Thanks to the Site Cloud which it has developed, Topcon ensured that all parties involved had access to this data in real time. Scientific support for the project was provided by business IT specialists from Hohenheim University; responsibility for implementing the documentation cloud was assigned to the ceapoint company. As the consortium partner for compaction, Ammann Compaction provided the rollers and adapted the mixing plant control unit to the requirements. Other partners involved in the project included Ed. Züblin, the structural engineering specialist, and the Strabag company.