Aggregate Image Measurement System 2 (AIMS2): Final Report
The construction industry has undergone a dramatic shift over the past decade and is no longer viewed as reluctant to adopt changes. The success of technology-oriented programs like Superpave has influenced the industry to be more receptive to advances in technology. The industry has also demonstrated that it is willing to move into newer technologies, such as stone-matrix asphalt (SMA) and warm-mix asphalt (WMA), when the technology is shown to be beneficial.
SMA and WMA are technologies that were originally applied in Europe. SMA is a stable, rut-resistant mixture that relies on stone-to-stone contact to provide skeletal strength and durability. SMA performance is directly attributed to aggregate shape properties, so accurate aggregate characterization and selection is necessary to produce a successful SMA mixture.
WMA technologies permit asphalt pavement producers to lower the material compaction temperatures by 50 °F to 100 °F (28 °C to 55 °C). A significant decrease in energy consumption as well as a reduction in the release of volatile gases can be attributed to the lower temperature. These factors will help metropolitan areas meet air quality standards. The lower temperature and reduced hazardous fumes also create a safer working environment for construction workers. Proper aggregate classification is essential when using WMA.
As higher demands are placed on the industry as a whole, the contractor will seek technology for a competitive advantage. The advances in applied technology will allow objective science to replace subjective opinions. To succeed in the new world of construction, contractors need to apply new technology, and technicians must be trained to use it.
As a result of these industry trends, there is strong interest in the AIMS2 concept. There is interest in the system from many U.S. State departments of transportation. There is also interest in the AIMS2 in Canada, Brazil, China, and Italy. Domestic aggregate producers have also expressed interest, as this technology provides a means for quantifying the consistency and quality of aggregate products.
Pine Instrument Company has identified several target markets for this new and innovative technology. In the earliest phase of the product life cycle, the target markets will be government agencies and academic institutions. As the product moves up the life-cycle curve, early adopters from the aggregate and construction industries will be the next target market. As the product becomes more accepted, aggregate suppliers will look to acquire the device for their quarries. In addition, contractors will purchase the instrument to verify the properties of the aggregates they are using and also to compare their aggregates to each other to hone their competitive edge and price points with each other.
Pine Instrument's marketing strategy for this technology includes positioning the product on the premise that the device provides objectivity in the characterization of aggregate materials. The simple operation of the equipment, repeatability, and ruggedness in both within-laboratory and between-laboratory applications and the objectivity achieved as compared to existing methods are the main selling points.
In addition to the material characterization advantages demonstrated within this project, new and continuing research is suggesting that there are other applications of aggregate shape characterization that will benefit from the AIMS2 technology. As these new concepts are demonstrated, they will provide additional reasons for the industry to apply AIMS2 technology.
To implement this strategy successfully, the traditional facets of marketing—price, placement, packaging, and promotion—will be used to achieve marketing goals.
Based on market feedback and customer responses, the AIMS1 unit was priced too high to compete with other existing tools and methodologies. During Phase I of this project, it was determined that the AIMS2 could be offered at a level that the market would find acceptable while also developing a product that melded marketability and applicability into an industry tool able to withstand the tests of repeatability, reproducibility, objectivity, and ruggedness for both within-laboratory and between-laboratory situations.
The ILS study garnered wide exposure and placement opportunities for the AIMS2 unit during that phase of the project. The product will now be placed into the market by selling directly to the consumer.
The AIMS2 is an enclosed device; the image acquisition chamber is approximately 30 in. by 30 in. and 45 in. high (0.7 m by 0.7 m by 1.1 m). The imaging chamber, along with the computer interface system, typically occupies a laboratory bench that is 30 in. by 72 in. (0.7m by 1.8 m). Operation of the equipment is simple and straightforward. The project objectives were met, so that the AIMS2 has a relatively small footprint and is unaffected by the environment of the typical testing laboratory. With proper care and packaging of the camera and microscope unit, the AIMS2 device can be moved within a lab or to other locations without much difficulty.
Several techniques will be used to promote the AIMS2, including direct sales, trade shows, journal and Internet advertising, and public relations efforts, and additional research into frictional properties. Direct sales efforts will be conducted by the manufacturer's personnel. Promotion efforts will also include attending national industry trade shows such as World of Asphalt/World of Aggregates as well as regional trade and association conferences. The AIMS2 will also be promoted to target markets by advertising in trade publications such as Aggregates Manager, Asphalt Contractor, Asphalt Pro, and others. Technical journals will be leveraged with articles, and technical presentations will be made describing the instrument's flexibility, objectivity, and overall benefits.
The relationship of aggregate texture to pavement skid resistance is well known, and although not part of the original grant program; the AIMS2 can be used to characterize the rate of change of aggregate texture in degradation tests, such as the Micro-Deval. These results can then be used during the pavement design process to model frictional characteristics of pavements. The AIMS2 system has also been used to characterize pavement core sample surface macrotexture features. Macrotexture has been shown to be an important feature for obtaining adequate pavement friction. These characterizations extend the capabilities of the AIMS2 system beyond aggregate shape analysis into pavement friction applications.
The current interest levels in the AIMS2 device, coupled with the ongoing research in aggregate laboratory analysis relating to pavement performance and skid resistance, bodes well for the future sales and acceptance of the AIMS2 device in the construction industry.