Automated plant changes the face of producing concrete blocks

Belen Ward
bwards@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/31/69

Last year, Basalite Concrete Product opened a Fort Lupton facility with 189,000 square foot facility with 8,000 office spaces. It's the most automated block plant in North America, equipped with the …

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Automated plant changes the face of producing concrete blocks

Posted

What stands out about the concrete block-making robots at the center of Basalite's Fort Lupton factory is not just the scale – although the size of the massive machines is impressive.

It's just how nimble and precise they are.

The machines pour the concrete, set the molds and send them to kilns before pulling the blocks out and stacking them, ready to be shipped.  It was back-breaking labor before the robots, according to Basalite Plant Manager Dean Walton.

"Before robotic automation, men would manually be flipping blocks and pallets all day," Walton said.

Basalite Concrete Product opened its Fort Lupton facility with 189,000 square foot facility with 8,000-square feet of office space last year. It's the most automated block plant in North America, equipped with the latest technology, he said.

"Basalite building products is very excited to be part of the Fort Lupton / Weld County Community,"' Joe Kerrigan, Basalite's general manager, said. "Our interactions with the City of Fort Lupton and members of the community have exceeded our expectations. We are excited to grow within the community and for what the future holds for our continued partnerships."

California-based Basalite is a wholesaler that sells to hardware stores across the western U.S. and Canada, including Home Depot. The company purchased 60 acres of land north of Fort Lupton and began constructing the plant in 2019. They completed in February 2021.

But the company's in-house testing lab, design molding, repair and welding shop are all housed in the Fort Lupton operation. They make the blocks used in building, landscaping and architecture. Those can include pavers for walks and patios, blocks for retaining walls or concrete masonry for buildings.

The testing lab tests compression crushing strength tests on concrete blocks by placing them in a testing machine that measures the force needed to crush them.   And also do testing on aggregate density, moisture, and color variations.

"These tests are done to see if we are meeting our specks required standards that we adhere to on strength, durability and aesthetics and we also test colors too," said Brad Vetting, quality control manufacture engineer.

The welding and repair shops are responsible for maintaining and repairing the block molds, Walton said.

"The mold shop designs the mold for the different sizes of concrete blocks and bricks. They also weld and repair the molds because they wear down," said Walton.

Building blocks

The plant has giant hoppers that store the sand and gravel inside and hoppers outside, holding many different colors of sand.

"Our work is done inside, so we do not deal with the weather,  so we continue to work all year round. The outside of the plant is used for storage. We also have dust control emissions, so sand piles are not in the plant," said Walton. 

They have two enormous machines from France, one called a Bisser, and the other called a Quadra. The machines shake and compress the material to make blocks before they are kiln-dried and cured. It's deafeningly noisy, so each machine is secured in soundproof rooms.

Next is the two-story Kiln room that cures the blocks with a robot moving ceiling-high stacks of blocks through once they are cured via a conveyor belt. As the blocks are on a conveyor belt, employees inspect them for perfection. If a block comes out with some imperfections, it is put into a large bin and re-used for by-products; nothing gets wasted. They produce wet casts too.

The finished blocks move along to robots with arms in each area that moves heavy stacks of concrete blocks, cutting, flipping, and handing over blocks to the next robot and placing them on conveyors belts. One last robot wraps them and packages the final products for shipping.

An employee oversees all the robots in the control room using interlocking touch screen computers to program the robots, as well as to monitor all the systems and do maintenance.

"We are expanding to a seven-day operation and looking to hire folks," Walton said.

Basalite Concrete is at  1801 So. Rollie Avenue, Fort Lupton, CO 80621. For more information, call  303 292-2345 and visit the website for products and open positions at www.baselite.com.

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