No doubt that by now you’ve seen or heard about the new line of HTC Duratiq grinders. If so, you’ve probably been told how revolutionary and innovative they are as well.
In today’s society of social media and marketing, one could easily assume that the Duratiq falls prey to the common rhetoric and hype. While some of that may be true, there are some very unique features about the new grinder that sets it apart and delivers true innovation for our industry.
When HTC was designing the Duratiq grinders, they asked me my opinion of what a “contractor” needed in a grinder. My answer was short and simple – a smarter grinder. Over the years, I’ve witnessed our industry slowly evolving. The single most important factor (I believe) that restricts the growth of our industry is confusion. This is often brought about for purposes designed to capture market share in lieu of growing the overall market, a short-sighted growth plan (again my opinion). One thing about HTC, they are willing to invest in a vision for the growth of our industry. This has been proven throughout HTC’s history and is no different with the introduction of the Duratiq grinders.
HTC unveiled the Durtiq internally in what could only be described as a colossal event mirroring something from the automotive industry. Machines on stage, lots of lights and theatrical music, etc, but the design and integrated features of the grinder showed through it all. Sitting there listening to all of the months of meetings and design efforts come to fruition, I realized that, of the 100 new items introduced, 5 of these were major changes that would impact HTC forever and quite possible the industry in a way that could take years to fully comprehend.
1 – The new grinding head is a design feature worthy of awards on its own. Not only does the new design create a much more aggressive cut, but the internal parts and construction were designed with focus on serviceability and performance. Looking as intricate as the internal workings of a classic timepiece imitating Rolex, the self-adjusting upper belt, machined housing, and highly functional pulley design surpasses the expectations of the most optimistic operator. Belt changes have been reduced from 4-5 shop hours to 45-60 minutes in the field!
2 – While balance and ergonomics isn’t forethought to most U.S. based contractors, it certainly is an added benefit making their daily chores much easier. The ease of maneuverability of the Duratiq grinders certainly makes for a less stressful day of operation (even without the remote operation).
3 – Synergy is another feature often overlooked by contractors. Rightly so as it’s hard to attribute “synergy” to daily activities and time/cost savings, which most contractors are solely focused on. However, given time to realize the small benefits of the Mist Cooler System paired with Airflow tooling plates and how these two work together to increase airflow/dust extraction on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis, it all adds up.
4 – A new electronic system, CAN BUS, allows for fewer electronics, easier connections and cooler, cleaner electronic compartments. When paired with the inverter and the HMI, making incremental changes in the characteristics of the grinder are simpler and faster than ever. This allows for HTC to always be improving the Duratiq line of grinders by simply releasing a new firmware… a fifteen-minute update.
5 - By far, the HMI (human/machine interface) makes the largest impact of all. This is the first step of many toward meeting the demands for a “smarter” machine in the industry. It offers essential, real-time information needed for the technician to make judicious decisions for tooling grit, bond, and speeds.
Looking back, any one of these five features would have been “innovative” on their own. However, combining all 5, along with many other updates and changes, it is certainly a monumental leap forward for our industry to follow.
For many years, I’ve been searching for a way to quantify “polished concrete”. As an industry, we’ve agreed on a definition, but how do you quantify one piece over another to meet that definition? How does a consumer discern one process over another to develop this end product we call “polished concrete”? I’ve realized that by combining the efforts of the CSDA ST115 surface profile measuring with the CPC’s (formerly CPAA) gloss, doi, and haze requirements, one can actually begin to predict the outcome of the polishing process well before the end.
To oversimplify, most polishing technicians use a 5-7 step process from rough to smoother grits. These steps tend to “overlap” each other in terms of refining the surface when done properly. Even with a substantial margin of error in speeds and tooling choices, the overlap is so great that the average technician can produce an average floor. This in itself is a major problem for our industry as “average” tends to be the norm and market prices become based on “average” in lieu of quality.
By applying surface profile measurements (roughness average- Ra) throughout the process, a technician can measure the performance of the diamond tooling after each stage or step. Once they have progressed far enough through the process to develop gloss, doi and haze values, they can then use those in comparison to the Ra to predict the outcome of the process. While this is good and would be revolutionary on its own accord for most technicians, it still falls short due to judging the outcome after each pass or step. What if you could do this during the process? Now we’re talking time and labor savings!
By combining the measuring techniques described above with the real time, descriptive information provided by the HTC Duratiq HMI, a technician can not only determine if their choice of tooling is the correct choice, but also “dial” the performance in to maximize their time and efficiency. Seriously!
When I first saw the Duratiq in operation, I noticed that the “actual power usage” was approximately 70% of the available power. That is a large 70% number in the center of the HMI screen. This was basically indicating that the motor was using 70% of its available energy to push the diamond across the floor. So what would happen if the tooling were glazed and no longer cutting? Would the number go down since it wouldn’t require as much energy to push the diamond? Good question, because I shared the same curiosity. So, I stood on the front of the machine to (slightly) increase the weight and point load of the tooling until it generated enough friction and heat to glaze the tooling. At first, the energy level went as high as 120%, but shortly after began a slow decent settling near a low energy level of 25-30%. When I removed the extra weight, the tooling began to cool off and eventually “cleaned itself” as the metal was worn away and more diamonds were exposed, returning the energy to 70% as it was in the beginning.
Fascinating! This proved to me that, with a certain level of understanding on what the diamond tools limits were, we could predict the how the diamond tool should perform regardless of the substrate. If we could begin to isolate the tooling, scratch patterns, surface profile from the substrate, we could begin to make some headway into developing a descriptive process that would provide an end user with a product in lieu of a process. This would allow substantial support for our market to grow, becoming more competitive with other floor coverings and coatings that are more of a commodity than service (not to imply that service is no longer relevant!).
But just think, what if a major retail center was looking at flooring choices for 120 of their soon to be built facilities, each equally nearly 50K sf each. That’s 6M sf of flooring space. At a moderate price range of $5 per sf, that totals $30M in flooring. That’s right, I said flooring… the product that will be walked on and, in the owner’s perspective, hopefully go completely unnoticed. Historically, these types of floors are reduced to less than $2 per sf mainly because we, as an industry, haven’t been able to prove the value for more than that (along with the fact that we continue to cannibalize our market rather than focus on the real competition). Meanwhile, other industries like terrazzo and tile maintain much higher prices for being a “commodity” product and not reduced to a “concrete floor finish”. And we all know that polished concrete has just as many benefits, if not more, than other flooring systems.
While the industry has much room for improvement overall, hopefully you can begin to understand some of my enthusiasm and hope for the future of polished concrete. HTC’s willingness to invest in the development of new, truly innovative products that impact our industry should only pave the way for others to aspire to achieve the same. The way I see it, we are now in a dead-heat race to see who can reach the moon first, much like we were back in the 1960’s.