Carbon concrete reinforcement ignites minesite interest

A report by ACARP said the technology means carbon fibre can now be bonded to steel and concrete structures to provide an efficient, cost-effective and long-term method of strengthening and repair.An exclusive licence agreement between ICC Mining, Key Solutions Group and Sumitomo Australia has been signed for the development and delivery in Australia of technology called Sitecure.ICC Mining will take the reins of an exclusive life of patent rights, while Sumitomo Australia will operate as the product distributor and Key Solutions Group will take charge of the marketing, site applicators and project managers.Jason LeCoultre from ICC Mining spoke to CIN’S sister publication International Longwall News and explained that by using the Sitecure process composite materials can be used onsite with certainty and reliability.“Sitecure uses aerospace quality materials, such as carbon and glass fibre, which produces superior environmental and structural properties enabling a wider range of materials to be available for projects such as minesite maintenance,” he said. “Many existing composite alternatives don’t have the controls or processes to produce repeatable outcomes such as Sitecure,” LeCoultre said.Sitecure uses the established process of vacuum consolidation and combines it with the heating capability of steam to optimally cure resin impregnated fibres. This unique use of controlled steam enables Sitecure to heat and cure any size and shaped composite part in any location in a manner that gives repeatable and predictable mechanical performance.“The Sitecure process is a simple, environmentally friendly procedure that injects steam into a flexible bag to optimally cure fibre reinforced polymer systems. The process can be easily adapted to envelop parts of unlimited size, shape and complexity out in the field,” LeCoultre said.LeCoultre said testing on Sitecure undertaken as part of the ACARP project C16028, investigating dragline lacing member strength upgrading, was the first step in developing a composite materials based technique whereby dragline load capacity increases and life extension can be realised, all without lowering the boom or losing productivity, just some of the problems that traditional steel presents for the coal industry.The ACARP report on the project states that prior to the development of Sitecure there was no method by which resin pre-impregnated fibre reinforced polymers (prepreg FRPs) could be bonded to infrastructure.The study also found that composite patches over pre-existing steel cracks have shown an increase in fatigue life of in excess of 12 times with samples remaining unbroken at the conclusion of testing. Another finding was the incorporation of glass fibre between the carbon fibre and the steel, while providing a significant increase in bond strength, decouples the carbon from the steel, eliminating possible galvanic corrosion problems.LeCoultre said Sitecure reinforcement was proving useful in many scenarios across a range of industries and demonstrating that most of the time it can be applied without the need to remove existing structures, without a hot work permit and without stopping the majority of operations.“Although the focus of the ACARP research project was on dragline booms there are many other applications for Sitecure and composites in the mining industry,” he said.“Concrete U-beams reinforced with Sitecure have produced strength increases of between 30 and 60 per cent.“In addition to concrete, steel and timber bridges, the applications which ICC has identified and has some initial data on include repairing and strengthening concrete tanks, strengthening concrete and masonry walls, and repairing and strengthening concrete tunnels.”LeCoultre said further applications which had been identified but as yet had not been fully tested included: excavator booms, stacker reclaimer strengthening, reinforcing roof supports, strengthening conveyor booms, repairing local fatigue cracking, and containing and strengthening concrete crusher footings.Sitecure was first demonstrated in amateur motorsport, where it was used to manufacture and repair the carbon fibre chassis for the University of Western Australia motorsport team. The Sitecure composite material work on these cars was highly awarded, including an Engineers Australia Engineering Excellence Award in 2004. Another benefit of the Sitecure technology is the ability to repair other composite products and structures onsite rather than having to take them back to the manufacturer to match the manufacturing characteristics and properties of the product.“The technology is still in the very early stages, but everyone involved is very excited about the possibilities and what the future will hold. The mining industry is a promising avenue of possibilities for the technology. Sitecure has many benefits that are unique to the mining industry if capitalised on,” LeCoultre said.“It is certainly an emerging technology that is an evolution of carbon fibre technology that has been applied for the past 20 or so years.”

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