An operator maneuvers a hydro-demolition robot at Discovery Parks. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.

Vancouver Island business using robots to bring down concrete walls

Walco Industries only firm on the Island to use specialized robots for hydro-demolition

Watching a hydro-demolition process is like marvelling at what water can do at an extremely high pressure.

B.C. based cleaning firm, Walco Industries, brought along a couple of specialized robots to demonstrate the efficiency of hydro-blasting at the old Elk falls mill based inside Discovery Park in Campbell River.

For hydro-demolition, robots use high volumes of water at extremely high pressure – anywhere between 15,000 psi to 40,000 psi – to break apart concrete while still preserving the structural integrity of the remaining concrete.

At the site of demolition, a 20 by 20 feet wall structure was brought down by robots by making two vertical incisions in the wall, using 60 gallons of water per minute at 20,000 psi.

The water for the procedure came from hydrants on site where it was filtered before going through high pressure pumps. After being used on the concrete it is collected, pumped to a settling pond or moved by vacuum truck, and filtered/treated until clean.

Hydro-demolition is 10 times more faster than traditional methods that require jack hammers and environmentally safe as it reduces noise and dust pollution.

Moreover these methods would end up creating micro fractures in the structures during the process while at the same time leaving the operator with fatigue and hand-arm vibration syndrome, said Richard Lawson, project coordinator for Walco Industries.

The use of robotics eliminates these undesirable effects, he said.

Micro-fractures are avoided through a process called concrete scarification– a form of surface preparation where a concrete surface is ‘roughened’ up in order to provide an appropriate surface for fresh concrete to adhere to.

This technology is used on bridge decks, dams, water treatment facilities, piers docks and nuclear power plants among others.

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“Hydro-demolition was a natural direction for the company as it is a highly efficient way to update any aging infrastructure. It is not just quicker but also cuts down on noise, dust and worker fatigue which allows for working in areas where noise is an issue and also where dust could be problematic,” said Lawson.

There are only two firms in Western Canada that has this technology and Walco industries is one of them. The firm is the only operator on Vancouver Island that has specialized robotics to carry out hydro-blasting, said Lawson.

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