May 3, 2002

You say you want a Revolution?

  • New light-weight composite mixing drum is ready to change the world
    Journal Construction Editor

    Revolution drum
    Photos courtesy of McNeilus Companies
    The Revolution drum was unveiled at the recent CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas. The composite mixing drum is 2,000 pounds lighter than steel.

    McNeilus Companies has a revolution on its hands, and the maker of concrete mixers is welcoming it with open arms.

    After four years and $10 million of research and development, the subsidiary of Oshkosh Truck Corp. has launched the “Revolution” — a composite mixing drum that weighs in 2,000 pounds less than the steel drums now used by most ready-mix concrete fleets.

    “We believe that the Revolution drum’s introduction is the single greatest industry advancement since the first truck-mounted mixers back in the 1930s,” said Dan Lanzdorf, McNeilus president, in a prepared statement. “But this is more than an interesting technological accomplishment. It will mean increased efficiency and profitability for our customers.”

    Anderson Concrete
    Anderson Concrete of Columbus, Ohio, tries out the Revolution drum on one of its ready-mix trucks.

    Because of its reduced weight, the 11-cubic-yard Revolution mixer can carry about one-half cubic yard more concrete in every load, thus increasing productivity. It features a 42-inch-wide drum opening, similar to steel drums, and a 244-square-inch inspection hatch.

    McNeilus’ other claims about the patent-pending mixer drum include:

    • The drum integrates auto-reversing fins to improve mixing and discharge speed and efficiency

    • Its design and smooth polyurethane interior minimize concrete build up, so routine cleaning and maintenance are reduced

    • The drum is expected to be more durable with a longer life than a typical steel drum

    • Corrosion is virtually eliminated because the drum is manufactured from composite material

    • The drum shell works like an insulated liner to keep the mix at a more controlled temperature on both hot and cold days

    • The composite material deadens sound, reducing noise during dry and wet batch operations, possibly allowing ready-mix producers to extend their hours of operation

    The mixer has been field tested with leading ready-mix producers in Ohio, California and Minnesota with positive results, according to the company.

    One of the those firms is Anderson Concrete Corp. of Columbus, Ohio.

    “So far it’s been working really well,” said Stanley Ward, shop superintendent at Anderson. “We’re really satisfied with it.”

    Ward said his company was the first in the country to put the Revolution on the road, about a month and a half ago. It is now installed on two of its 71 active trucks.

    How the Revolution measures up
    Revolution drum
    Typical steel drum
    Capacity 11 cubic yards 11 cubic yards
    Drum weight 2,450 lbs. 4,530 lbs.
    Shell construction composite (polyurethane, filament, resin, acrylic urethane) 3/16-inch AR steel
    Drum opening 42 inches 42 inches
    Inspection hatch 244 sq. in., composite construction steel
    Track and rollers 3-7/8-inch induction hardened rollers - pre-formed, machined roller track - nylon drum debouncer pre-formed, machined roller track - steel drum debouncer
    Charge hopper 42-inch, high and low 42-inch, high and low
    Drive socket 18-bolt 18-bolt
    Transmission ZF P7300 series drive continuous 51,800 ft. lbs. of torque • 144.3:1 reduction ZF P7300 series drive continuous 51,800 ft. lbs. of torque • 144.3:1 reduction
    Source: McNeilus Companies

    Some of the features Ward likes is how quiet it is, its easy cleanup, and its ability to load and unload. He said the Revolution’s 42-inch opening is working as well as or better than the 46-inch openings the company has on its steel drum trucks.

    Ward said a contractor on one job liked the concrete’s ribbon flow coming out of the back of the truck because it was more even and smoother than from a steel drum.

    McNeilus estimates the composite drum will last up to twice as long as steel. That bodes well for Anderson, which replaces the steel drums on its trucks every six to seven years and ends up selling the trucks a few years later to keep its fleet modern. Ward said a new steel drum runs about $5,600.

    McNeilus is currently selling the unit only as part of a complete mixer assembly for new trucks. The assembly is about $12,000-$15,000 more than a steel drum mixer assembly.

    Tom Harris, vice president of McNeilus’ mixer and plant division, said the company has not set pricing and doesn’t plan to until production ramps up in late fall. McNeilus is now building several production facilities to make the drums.

    Full-rate production is scheduled for fiscal 2004.

    The company said it expects to invest another $15 million-$20 million in capital during fiscal 2003 and 2004 to roll out the product. It plans to extend the use of the technology for additional drum sizes and for its S series line of front-discharge concrete mixers. Weight savings on front-discharge mixers will be similar to that achieved on rear-discharge designs.

    McNeilus plans to market the drum assembly to ready-mix producers through its eight factory stores in the U.S. Harris said there are about 75,000 mixer drums in use in the country and McNeilus has the largest market share.

    The company also plans to enter the European ready-mix market on a limited basis.

    Harris said the drum could be offered as a direct replacement part instead of a complete assembly, but that is probably three years off. He said the drums can be dropped into existing trucks with few modifications.

    Ward said his company is still in the experimental stage with the Revolution, but hasn’t seen any drawbacks yet. “If this works out, I’m sure we’ll be getting more in the future,” he said. Anderson typically buys about eight new ready-mix trucks a year.

    The Revolution was officially unveiled March 19 at the giant 2002 CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas.

    In addition to concrete mixers, McNeilus makes concrete batch plants and refuse truck bodies. It is headquartered in Dodge Center, Minn., and has a branch office in the Tacoma area.


    Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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