Architectural Plant Tour
Stop 1: Mold Shop
The mold shop plays an important role in architectural precast projects. Since every architectural job is different, the shop is responsible for producing each project’s uniquely designed molds.
When creating wood forms, skilled carpenters use final project drawings to produce molds with power-assisted tools such as the computer numerical control (CNC) machine. Once the wood forms are completed, they are given a wax coating on the interior to support the release of the piece during stripping.
While most molds are produced using wood, some projects require custom formliners made of heavy-duty rubber. High Concrete works with preferred vendors to help design and create these molds for precast concrete projects.
Once combined with steel framing, the molds are ready for pouring at batch plant.
Stop 2: Stressing Deck
Production co-workers arrive in the very early morning hours to strip the previous day’s casting since it has cured by the time they arrive. After the concrete has set and reached its targeted strength, the product is stripped from the form. Once stripped, the co-workers will clean the form or apply a new form to prepare for the day’s cast. For pre-stressed pieces, strands are placed end-to-end within the form and through the stressing plates on each end. The strands are then tensioned based on the needs of the project.
Once removed from the form, cured concrete is finished to each job’s specification. Most of the exposed surfaces are poured face down to keep a clean, smooth surface. However, one of several finishes may be applied ranging from Smooth to Acid Etched to an Exposed Aggregate finish. All products are then sealed with a concrete sealer unless stated otherwise. Throughout this process, High Concrete Group follows a strict quality control regimen dictated by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI).
Stop 3: Batch Plant
After the materials have been transported by the conveyor belt, the batch plant uses sophisticated technology to determine the correct proportions of aggregate and materials for the project’s mix, including cement, sand, stone, water, and admixtures. After the concrete is mixed, it is discharged into a delivery mechanism, such as a mixing truck or overhead crane. It is imperative that the concrete be delivered to the form as soon as possible to maintain the integrity of the mixture.
The concrete is transported and poured into the previously fabricated mold and frame structures via truck or overhead crane. The concrete is then left to cure for a set amount of time depending on the project specifications.
Stop 4: Bins
The bins hold concrete materials that are separated into storage and staging phases. Depending on the project requirements, different aggregates will be used to create different properties in the final product. Storage bins hold material for longer periods of time while staging bins hold the current material being used. Both types of bins are covered as protection from environmental elements.
The storage bins contain sand, stone, pigment, and waste concrete. Storage bins typically hold 1-2 days' worth of inventory.
When needed, the content leaves the staging bins and flows down the conveyor belt to the batch plant for proper mixing. In the summer, misters are used to spray water on this material to keep it moist and mixable. Concrete, like cake batter, is where all of the “ingredients” are mixed together. This occurs at the batch plant.
Stop 5: Laser and Xceleraytor
We live in a 3D world and are ever increasing our interaction with 3D technologies. We can now experience games and movies in 3D and even preview furniture in our living rooms before buying online. Without question these advancements are more immersive and provide clarity to things not possible to represent in 2D. Over the last few decades HCG has spent significant effort to transition our design process from 2D drawings to 3D models for the same benefits and have found significant improvements in quality; however, we still convert these data rich models to 2D drawings for fabrication. These drawings are difficult to interpret, especially for new employees, and require multiple views for perspective. For architectural products, this becomes more complicated due to the amount of details that must be communicated to meet specifications.
Similar to how Ikea simplified the furniture assembly process, the XceleRAYtor laser technology allows these drawings and instructions to reduced to simple, ordered tasks in a 3D format in order to fabricate the precast elements. This system is also integrated with the laser projection system to show linework where the various components need to be installed. If you can build an Ikea bookcase, you can setup up and pour one of our pieces.
Step 6: Cage Fab
Steel bars and mesh are constructed as a frame to help support and reinforce precast concrete. The panels have steel channels along their perimeter and are reinforced with bars to form a structural cage. On site, the wall sections are welded to each other at the steel frame and to a base plate embedded in the building's foundation.
In production, the cage is created by cutting and forming steel components to create a frame structure according to project specifications. A bar cage is welded together as a frame using a combination of steel bars and channels. A mesh cage involves cutting and bending a mesh sheet to the required shape.
Once the cage is completed, it is sent to the decks where concrete is then poured into the form.
Step 7: Mock-Up Garden
High Concrete’s mock-up garden was created to both inspire new projects and to appreciate completed projects. The panels seen in the mock-up garden today demonstrate some of our most noteworthy projects and panels, including the Statue of Liberty Museum, Villanova University, and our pieces that qualified us as a PCI “AA” rated producer.
At the onset of every project, mock-ups are created for clients as samples to demonstrate what the completed project will look like. For mock-up reviews, High Concrete will produce a smaller version of the project panel and host the project team (including architects, general contractors, construction firms, and end-users or owners) at our site to go over these prepared samples. During this iterative process, the project team provides feedback for each mock-up and High Concrete continues to fine-tune the panel until there is agreement within the group to go forward in producing the project panels.