Engineered Floor-Tile Systems Improve Forge Operations
Demanding environments in forges require engineered floor systems to accommodate heavy handling equipment in high-traffic areas and impact loading. They also must have thermal resistance to high-temperature workpieces. Various flooring options are available in today’s market, and the selection of appropriate flooring materials is critical to long-term facility goals.
The selection of an appropriate flooring system contributes to increased productivity and profitability by decreasing outages related to floor repairs and replacement, reducing expensive equipment repairs related to inconsistencies in the flooring and decreasing the risk of operator safety concerns and fatigue.
Several flooring methods that are traditionally used in forging areas are concrete, steel plating, non-fired refractory castable or a combination of these options. Steel plating offers longer life than concrete due to better resistance to impact loading and more resistance to high-temperature materials. Concrete offers lower initial installation costs, but it has a much shorter life expectancy.
Concrete is often used as a primary floor material, with steel plating sometimes placed near the forge and furnace areas where impacts from load and traffic patterns are highest. While concrete flooring offers reduced short-term initial costs, it has a shorter service life due to wear in high-traffic areas from heavy transport manipulators, handling equipment and exposure to high-temperature workpieces. Other flooring systems ensure reduced long-term costs.
Refractory castable is sometimes substituted for traditional concrete due to added strength and greater resistance to high temperatures, but it generally has similar failure modes related to cracked and uneven surfaces, worn areas, divots, and rough surfaces caused by heavy equipment and thermal stresses of high-temperature product contact. Steel plating often lasts longer than standard concrete or refractory castable, however, due to deformation and warping from high temperatures and mechanical stresses. Steel plates also need to be replaced regularly, which is often not cost-effective.
Engineered Flooring Systems
Engineered floor-tile systems are an option for facilities in which long-term value is required and total cost of ownership is considered. The initial costs of engineered floor-tile systems are typically greater than for traditional concrete surfaces. But because the service life of engineered floor tiles is significantly greater, the total cost of ownership is less. This is especially true if we also factor in less repair downtime, lower related material and labor repair costs, and the reduction of potential equipment damage.
Floor-tile systems are designed through modern engineering practices, specifically focusing on the development of precast floor-tile systems calculated for equipment and product loading and impact stresses related to typical use in forging environments. These floor-tile systems include engineered packages consisting of appropriately selected refractory materials and should include precision-manufactured precast floor tiles, grout materials and subfloor materials. When appropriately engineered and manufactured, these materials – in combination with detailed proper installation – create significant benefits over traditional concretes and refractory castable.
When designed and implemented properly, significant enhanced performance may be expected. These systems increase strength, improve thermal and abrasion resistance and result in extended life. This smooth and consistent flooring reduces floor maintenance, minimizes equipment maintenance related to flooring and improves operator safety while also decreasing operator fatigue related to uneven or damaged flooring.
It is important to note that simply adding the floor tiles alone might not deliver maximum advantage. That is reached when the floor-tile system is engineered and manufactured with appropriate design considerations made for floor-tile interface with substrate to avoid point loading as well as accommodations for top surfaces to be flat and consistent throughout the floor system.
Implementation and Installation
Implementation of floor-tile systems can be made to new facility floor plans and can be modified to existing facility floor plans. For new construction, consultation with experienced floor-system experts should occur during the preliminary phases of facility design to include subfloor design and floor-system package allowances. In existing facilities, flooring can be updated with engineering services to determine the appropriate excavation area size, subfloor depth and floor-tile package.
Whether you are dealing with new construction or flooring modifications, various floor-tile package options are available. These vary from total facility coverage to limited and concentrated coverage of specific problem areas, such as the proximity of forge and furnace operations. Based on budget requirements and goals, the strategic implementation of planned and sequenced installations in stages is also possible and should be prioritized by level of concern.
An example of this planned, staged sequencing might be to implement floor-tile system coverage by the forge, then furnaces and high-traffic areas and lastly with any remaining coverage. If a staged strategy is required, it is important that the preliminary engineering include the total area desired for complete coverage, required rework costs and additional installation and material costs.
One benefit of planned installation stages will be to allow the periodic replacement and repair of target areas as the flooring wears at different rates based on installation stages. Floor-tile systems can be custom engineered to meet various requirements, including sizing and material package selection, to facilitate most needs related to required excavation accommodations and constraints.
After installation, future repairs can be planned with respect to production requirements, where individual floor tiles or segments can be removed and replaced, rather than using patching laminations on concrete that often do not last long.
Engineered floor-tile systems start with experienced project engineers and customers defining specific needs related to operational conditions and other factors. These include the size and layout of the working area of the floor system, as well as the identification of any known trouble areas and their contributing factors. Obviously, problematic areas often include those around furnaces, presses, hammers, finishing operations and heavy-equipment traffic areas. These require materials with thermal resistance, high strength and high abrasion resistance in order to withstand heavy loading, impact distribution and thermal stresses.
During this initial engineering phase, it will be important to identify weight and displacement of vehicles and handling equipment, traffic patterns, cycling frequency of heavy-equipment use and process requirements such as where hot materials interface with the flooring. This specification will allow calculations of potential excavation areas, selection of appropriate materials to meet specifications and design conditions to minimize cost impacts as related to material and contractor installation requirements.
Upon completion of scope definition and definition of customer requirements, engineering of the floor-tile system can be performed. This consists of an experienced and qualified engineering team developing a viable system to meet these requirements. This is done through engineering calculations, consultation, review of appropriate materials, and 3D modeling and finite-element analysis (FEA) computer programs to model and verify point loading and weight distribution through the floor-tile system. This is a critical step in determining the appropriate floor-system materials specific to the customer’s application as well as designing the combination of materials to perform as a system rather than independent tiles.
Design considerations, selection of tile sizing, and tile and joint materials will affect installation costs. Ideally, the joint materials selected will allow for perimeter banding of grout material that is enough for the perimeter area to minimize tile cutting, thereby reducing the quantity of tiles purchased and increasing installation efficiency.
Other factors considered in the floor system include maintenance, future expansion, floor-tile handling to reduce installation time, safety considerations, and packaging details for secure transport and reasonable freight costs. The engineering package should include layout drawings of the floor-system area accompanied by installation notes and instructions to ensure successful installation and periodic repair instructions.
Once engineering has been completed, the detailed manufacturing of the system can begin. It is important that manufacturing capabilities include robust process and equipment controls, such as precise water mixing of the refractory castable and ASTM-calibrated and controlled kiln firing, to achieve the desired product properties (e.g., strength and abrasion resistance) consistent with engineered intent.
Mold-making technology and precision manufacturing capabilities are critical to ensure consistent floor tiles because these will be used as a system rather than as individual units. Manufacturing traceability is important throughout the process for engineering verification of material and product compliance as well as reducing customer risk. Any deviation from these manufacturing sequences might prove detrimental to the performance and life of the floor-tile system.
Logistics and delivery of the floor-tile system materials must be well coordinated between the supplier and forge. Any floor-tile system should be planned, with attention to material storage in a dry environment upon customer receipt and within any material shelf-life time frame. Depending on the size layout involved, multiple truck loads of materials should be anticipated, and customers should be prepared with necessary personnel resources and facilities for storage.
An engineered floor-tile system can be a viable solution for your forge in areas where other flooring methods are an issue. These include flooring areas that repeatedly lead to downtime, create rough and uneven transport surfaces for products and operators, and result in damage to product-handling equipment.
Proper engineering design and execution of a floor-tile system can result in increased production, which increases profitability and allows resources to be focused on daily production demands rather than repeated floor repairs, and reduced total cost of ownership. To evaluate if an engineered floor-tile system meets your needs, consult this option with an experienced floor-system engineering team.