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Mix master Nurock

INNOVATION

Graham Jones says his continuous mixing concrete dispenser will enable even small contractors to bring a mobile minibatching plant to site. Joanna Booth reports

NOT EVERYONE may view the concrete mixer as a creative inspiration but when Graham Jones completed his degree in marketing and product design in 1999 he knew he wanted to make a career in concrete.

Helping out in the family business had given him a wide experience of working with the material.On a trip to the USA he spotted continuous mixing dispensers at work and looked further at the market for this type of machine.

'Our machine supplies exactly what you want, where and when you want it, with no waste, ' says Mr Jones.'It's a bit like a milk round.'

After completing his basic design Mr Jones was awarded a Smart Award of £10,000, which helped him finance the development of a prototype machine, from the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Nurock machine is ideal for small jobs, remote sites and hot climates as it allows concrete to be batched freshly on location.There is no transit period, so no need for retarders and no risk separation.Hydration occurs in the formwork, rather than in the truck.Mr Jones stresses the machine's versatility. It allows the mix to be varied at any point during delivery of a batch without reloading.

His design varies from the US imports on the market in its proportioning system.'Their machines run a fixed rate of cement, 'Mr Jones explains.'Then they reduce the flow of sand and aggregate to make stronger mixes - raising the proportion of cement.'

This, he argues, slows the production rate of the machines.The Nurock design is quicker and more energy-efficient since it uses an hydraulic system to monitor the volume of each ingredient.Amounts of each product can be measured electronically and varied to tailor-make the slump of each batch, retaining production speed even for stronger mixes.

The machine is computer-controlled, giving a high level of accuracy and a quality product.A receipt is printed for the customer, detailing the amounts of each product used.The average production rate is 40 cu m/hour.

Mr Jones went into partnership with his father to start the Nurock business, using his prototype to work in the Liverpool area.After 18 months of operating he is expanding by building two more continuous dispensing machines.

At the moment most of his customers are small builders who can use the Nurock machine to get small pours of fresh concrete and avoid the excesses usually charged by ready-mix companies for small loads.

Mr Jones' final goal has always been to manufacture and market his continuous dispenser, eventually phasing out the concrete production side of the business.

But he wanted to refine the machine first.'We really have an understanding of customer needs now, having operated as a concrete producer.We will be able to offer advice on all areas of the sector, rather than just handing over the machine and leaving them to it, ' he says.

Mr Jones hopes to have Nurock machines on the market by the end of the year.He expects to sell machines to operators producing concrete, medium-sized builders and those with a need for specialist concretes.

Large concrete companies have shown an interest in the machine, and Mr Jones is in talks with the Quality Scheme for ready-mixed concrete.

'We could have brought the mixer to the market more quickly but we wanted to make sure we had everything up and running, 'Mr Jones explains.'We have customer support mechanisms in place, user manuals and spare parts.We want our customers to be able to run successful businesses.'