Paving to Perfection
The projects planned in roads, highways and expressways under the National Infrastructure Pipeline for the next five years will drive the demand for pavers during the period.

With growing focus on quality and efficiency in roads and highways projects, paver market in India is slowly moving towards sensor pavers from mechanical pavers. Highway projects are growing in scale and size with contractors are looking for timely completion of the projects at the set quality parameters. Sensor pavers help in achieving these goals. While asphalt paver finishers lead the market, concrete pavers are also gaining momentum with more concrete roads and pavement projects coming up.

Market trends
Paver market is largely driven by roads and highways sector while there are applications in airports, ports and irrigation projects also. There was an overall slowdown in construction equipment market in the past couple of years due to slowdown in roads and highways sector. According to Feedback Consulting, there was a considerable dip in the road equipment segment in CY 2019 compared to CY 2018. The road equipment was largely impacted by the various issues faced by the government, especially by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

On the brighter side, over the past 1-2 years, state highways have started using the equipment similar to the ones used in national highways - the traffic density of roads has increased manifold, forcing most state highways to be upgraded to four-lane or sometimes even converting them to national highway status. In this scenario, advanced sensor pavers are being used in many state highways, while slip-form pavers are finding increased use in concrete based national highways and expressways. Further, large private players have started to participate in state highway projects bringing in new technology which earlier was restricted to national highways alone. The volume of state highway roads have prompted these players to participate in the same, which earlier was ignored. In the rural segments also, the PMGSY projects are promising with many such projects are using equipment such as pavers to ensure quality construction. All these trends are positive for (asphalt and concrete) pavers.

Sensor vs mechanic
Mechanical pavers are the most economical and efficient solution while sensor pavers are advanced pavers with intelligent monitoring systems. Mechanical pavers, though economical, cannot provide a smooth finish to the surface. In turn, this affects the traffic flow of the highway and increases maintenance requirements in the finished road. Sensor pavers have intelligent operating technology that helps control the machine in terms of mat thickness as well as the level of the mat and the grade required in the finished road.

They play an important role in getting the right levels and grades when building the roads. The final finish of the road depends to a great extent on the accuracy delivered by these pavers, in addition to the mix quality and temperature at which it is laid and compaction is done. Sensor pavers are used to lay very smooth roads, free from undulations, so the motorist can have a smooth drive. It is important that the correct thickness and cross slope is maintained while paving.

Innovations in pavers
Highway projects are graduating from just national highways to expressways and wider to widest with more lanes. When expressways are being constructed with more lanes will require utmost quality and safety measures for which technologically advanced equipment have to be used. Productivity and fuel efficiency are the key factors providing economic execution of the projects. Major paver manufacturers offer such advanced equipment to meet these quality and productivity requirements. For concrete paving, the Wirtgen slipform pavers can now offer dual-layer concrete paving, where a single machine is used for dual layer concrete paving: the bottom layer and the top layer concrete are paved in a synchronised operation. It is additionally ensured that both the top and bottom layers are paved "wet-in-wet" regardless of weather or site conditions. This can be done with single paver or with two pavers where it is necessary to distribute the operating weight to two separate machines.

In asphalt paving, the Vögele in-line paving where the binder and surface courses are paved "hot-on-hot" in a single pass, greatly accelerating activities on a job site. In addition, it is not necessary to completely close down the road: the three machines - a paver for the binder course, a paver for the surface course and a material feeder -work "in line", one behind the other, leaving one lane open to traffic, an ideal solution for rehabilitation of heavily travelled roads. The process is both economical and highly eco-friendly. The layer thickness can be reduced in "hot-on-hot" paving, thus lowering consumption of the costly surface course mix.

Volvo CE manufactures two models: the P4370B ABG and the P5320 ABG, both of which have a maximum paving width of 7 m. Also, Volvo's Co-Pilot, for example, offers a range of intelligent machine services - including Dig Assist and Pave Assist û to help operators deliver higher quality outcomes, in less time and with less effort.

Market outlook
The construction equipment market was down in the past couple of years due to global economic slowdown and some country-specific issues. After this slowdown, the market was on an upswing in the last quarter of 2019. However, another round of slowdown has now gripped the market globally after the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. This has become a far severe impact on the global market which has affected Indian construction equipment market as well. So, the going will be tough in the coming few months at least. However, with the government's policy level support, the construction equipment industry in India can bounce back later this year. The medium to long term outlook of the market is positive due to the amount of infrastructure development activities planned under the National Infrastructure Pipeline in the next five years. There is a huge focus on roads, highways and expressways development in particular, which will definitely drive the demand for pavers in the next five years.

The world's largest concrete slip-form paver has formally commissioned on February 25, 2020 at the construction of 8-lane Vadodara-Kim Expressway, a part of the Mumbai-New Delhi Expressway. Patel Infrastructure bought this huge machine from Wirtgen India to construct the 31 km Karjan-Bharuch stretch of the Vadodara-Kim Expressway. There will be four such machines working at this project, according to the company sources.

The SP-1600 fully automatic slip-form concrete paver from Wirtgen has a full paving width of 18.75 m with a capacity to pave 6 metre per minute. The paver comes with automatic dowel and tie bar inserter and texturing and curing compound spraying attachment.

The idea behind the acquisition of the world's biggest concrete paver was to maintain the highest quality of paved surface in terms of line, level and compaction. This paver can pave the entire width of 18.75 m at one go to achieve the smoothest riding quality of the surface. Paving concrete at a rate of 1.5-2.0 km per day at full width joint-free provides a perfect smooth surface ensuring a smooth travelling experience on the expressway.

The laying process with this paver can save half of the time compared with an ordinary 9 m paver in which paving the full width has to do in two segments, bringing in economy and efficient execution.