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Development and commercialisation of the hand-held smart testing equipment for the instantaneous quality control of the concrete and cement

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ConcTest (Development and commercialisation of the hand-held smart testing equipment for the instantaneous quality control of the concrete and cement)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2018-08-31

THE PROBLEM BEING ADDRESSED: Concrete used in civil engineering projects is subject to quality control strength testing. The industry standard test procedure involves the production and casting and curing (in a temperature controlled environment) of 150mm3 cube samples which are sent to specialist labs for compression testing following 28 days curing time.
By the time strength test results arrive, concrete has already been poured and hardened into the construction project. If the samples do not meet the required specification, then the maximum load of the concrete structure is determined and depending upon the results the whole structure is redesigned/strengthened/replaced to redistribute loads to other members. This situation causes significant construction delays and losses throughout the supply chain. Consequently, concrete manufacturers may supply an over-specified formulation with a compressive strength 5-10% greater than required at additional costs related to the raw-materials and additional energy to produce the over-specified product.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR SOCIETY? The ConcTest is not intended to replace the standard 28 day tests, it will add an immediate level of assurance that the concrete to be poured is fit for purpose or requires reworking. This will reduce the number of sample batches sent for the standard test – immediately identifying the ‘below-specification’ sample. Our envisaged sales price of the ConcTest is ~€5.5k with an operating cost ~€0.25/test (2 x 500ml of the de-ionised water for each test). A standard test cost ~€132/cube, with 3 cubes needed per pour to obtain an average value. ConcTest being an instantaneous quality control test will give concrete manufacturers an excellent indication as to the strength of the product that has been manufactured – fit for purpose or needing reworking. It will also enable the concrete users to make an instant decision to reject it, if the structural strength does not correspond with the supplier’s specification.
Economic and Environmental Impacts: Within the EU, ~5% of the cost of concrete is wasted on over specified batches and re-work ,– at a cost of £28.8m annually. Manufacturers will benefit from ConcTest by swiftly reformulating/improving their ‘low-quality’ or ‘rejected’ batches, hence reducing the economic losses associated with ‘dumping’ a batch. European and global uptake of ConcTest will reduce wastage by ensuring the production of ‘correct’ concrete. Environmental Impacts: ConcTest will optimise the use of cement and other ingredients, reducing the associated emissions and energy costs. Currently, across the Europe, manufacture of cement requires large amounts of energy (~4.1GJ per tonne) and releases large amounts of CO2 (800kg per tonne) and other environmentally damaging materials (SO2, NOx). CO2 emissions from cement manufacture account for 5% of man-made emissions.

OVERALL OBJECTIVES: carry out a business-focused feasibility study into the commercial potential for ConcTest in our target markets and to plan the technical and commercial developments needed for commercialisation. To achieve this we have identified the following project objectives.
We have completed our Phase 1 project. We have carried out all 7 tasks as described in our application. We have carried out a market evaluation and now have a detailed understanding of where our markets are geographically, where to target first, and we have excellent contacts. We have carried out a technical analysis and now have a detailed product specification and bill of materials. We have carried out a review of the Regulatory pathway and understand the regulations that we need to comply with in order to take Conctest to market. He have carried out a detailed intellectual property survey and filed a new patent. We have engaged extensively with our supply chain and have a list of commercial and technical partners. We have developed a project plan for our Phase 2 project. We have developed our business plan and now understand what we need to do to take Conctest to market.

WORK PERFORMED:

1 Market Evaluation, to gain an up to date understanding of the market opportunities within the freshly mixed concrete markets with specific details: how would end-users relate ConcTest results with standard testing results, from VoC based validation of specification requirements; market dynamics and barriers to entry; end user willingness to pay; and identifying challenges/opportunities in global markets over the next 5 years

2 Technical Analysis, to address any conceptual or design challenges identified through VoC in Market Analysis to progress to final production stage. Developed strategies on updating algorithms predictability to 99%, adding GPS functionality, cloud data transfer and provision of software update through internet connectivity and planning for data collection through end user trials during Phase2 project. Assessed potential impacts and improvements using life cycle analysis, and highlighted potential technical and/or commercial risks with correlating mitigations

3 Reviewed regulatory approval including CE marking (EMC & LVD), FCC and drop test, IP65, IP66 or IP67 and ATEX. Liaised with the concrete manufacturing associations, third party testing providers and regulatory authorities in the targeted countries to investigate creation a national/international standard on relating electrical conductivity with the concrete strength

4 Evaluate opportunities for additional IP protection through further patent applications and other methods of IPR. Extend the patents territories to Eastern Europe, Turkey, Mexico, Russia and Iran. We have filed a new patent based on our findings.

5 Supply-chain development (to manufacture and test beta scale prototypes during Phase 2) to identify and recruit:
• commercial partners with relevant accreditations to build a scalable supply chain with sufficient capacity to deliver commercial volumes of ConcTest prototypes to be tested and validated at independent testing authorities and by early adopters in target markets whilst ensuring compliance with the regulations and standards
• technical partners to plug the skills gaps identified to complete the development to commercial readiness; end users and independent test houses to provide assistance with environment trialling and validation

6 Developed a Phase 2 project plan to clarify activity required to create a commercial manufacturing process

7 Developed a viable and well researched and validated business model
During the Phase 1 project, we have determined the following technical and commercial objectives for completion during our Phase 2 project:

• Modification and optimisation of the algorithms to achieve prediction accuracy of 99% on the 28 day test results.
• Modification and optimisation of the algorithms to achieve prediction on early age strength (2,3,7 days strength to meet modern day customer specifications and demands.
• Revision of electronics and hardware, data input, case, external connectors and probe design to ensure product robustness
• Introduction of the ‘cloud data transfer through internet connectivity’ functionality (in the existing prototype data is manually stored onto a USB portable drive)
• Securing the necessary regulatory approvals, including CE marking (EMC & LVD), FCC & drop test, IP65, IP66 or IP67 and ATEX
• Liaising with concrete/cement associations, 3rd party testing providers/regulatory bodies to create a standard for the ConcTest.
• Finalise product design to suit high volume production manufacturing processes to meet the end user requirements
• Production of the beta-scale prototypes by engaging with a subcontract manufacturer.
• Test and validate the product’s technical and economic feasibility using key end users and independent test houses such as Building Research Establishment (BRE) and Omnicem UK.
• Commercialisation Tasks: IP protection for Eastern Europe, Turkey, Russia, Mexico and Iran. Secure supply chain, distribution partners, sales and marketing team within CST, prepare marketing and product launch programme to maximise industry awareness of ConcTest.

We have not carried out any technical development, though we have filed a new patent.
Image of Conc Test device