Heat Design Equipment paves the way to prolonged pavement life

When Barry McFadyen drives through his Kitchener, Ontario neighbourhood, he’s often irked by the longitudinal joints on the road he takes home. 

As a resident, the joints are a sad sight. However, as paving products manager for Heat Design Equipment, he’s certain the lien in the road could have been avoided. 

“In my opinion, if a joint heater was used on the road, it might not look like that today,” McFadyen said. 

Weakened longitudinal joints, which eventually leads to road deterioration, isn’t a problem that’s isolated to Kitchener. 

When a lane is paved and compacted, the edge is pushed out instead of down which leaves that outer edge about 4 to 6 per cent less compacted than the mat.

The National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) estimates that a 1 per cent decrease in density can lead to a 10 per cent decrease in the life of the pavement. So, the centreline joint typically falls apart much earlier than it should.

“Asphalt degradation almost always begins at the construction joints,” McFadyen said.

A flameless fix

Reheating asphalt can be problematic. If the AC is burnt in new or old asphalt, it is no longer usable. 

“The stones won’t stick to each other,” McFadyen said.

As a flameless remedy to weak joints, Heat Design Equipment developed the Joint Match Heater, which uses infrared heat to create a stronger bond between asphalt. 

The heater attaches to the side of a paver, and hangs above the edge of the mat to heat the joint as adjacent asphalt is laid.

What sets Heat Design Equipment’s joint heater apart from other heaters is its patented infrared ceramic blanket, which eliminates flames from directly contacting asphalt.  The ceramic cartridge is replaceable, changed within 20 minutes and typically last about 1,500 hours.

“There’s no flame, so there’s no burn,” McFadyen said. “In the equipment, propane and air mix. The mixture is then absorbed into our ceramic blankets, which are then lit. Once that ignition has happened, infrared rays will shoot from the bottom of the blanket and go towards whatever they’re pointed at.”

RAP and repairs

Using its infrared heaters, Heat Design Equipment has also development equipment to tackle asphalt repair. 

The company manufactures trailer-mounted or skid steer attachment versions of the equipment. 

The patented design, allows for continuous, uniform re-heating of the asphalt in place, to perform quick asphalt patch repair with a seamless joint.

“It all goes back to extending the life of the pavement, whether it’s on Day 1 of the construction, or later down the road when it’s the repair side. Either of those, if our infrared is used, it will prolong the life of the pavement,” McFadyen said.  

As well, Heat Design Equipment uses its infrared heaters to recycle asphalt into like-new hot mix. The HDE Raptor allows its user to re-heat material and modify the properties to ensure the best product for pothole repair, patch repair or skin patching.

Defying weather 

For colder climates, the infrared tech is also being used for preheating. 

Often, regulations dictate that paving cannot take place unless the temperature reaches 7 C and is rising. However, using Heat Design Equipment’s skid steer attachment that extends to 4.9 metres, the heater travels in front of the paver where the mat will be laid. This allows roadbuilding crews to pave when temperatures don’t reach the 7 C threshold.  

“Essentially what that is doing is allowing the mat to retain the heat longer, to allow the compaction to be obtained properly,” McFadyen said. “If it’s not preheated, there’s a good chance the temperature will be sucked through the ground below it. And you can’t compact it because it’s too cold.” 

Heat Design Equipment’s skid steer attachment may also be used to remedy paving jobs that have failed a compaction test. Typically, failing a compaction test means the asphalt must be milled and repaved. However, McFadyen explained the mat could be reheated and re-compacted to pass the test.  

“There’s always going to be a need to mill in certain areas, it’s not the solution to fix everything,” McFadyen said. “But in a surface scenario, especially in a new mat, as oppose to cutting or grinding into it, you can reheat it and pass compaction.”

Expansion plans

Heat Design Equipment was founded in 1976 by Bob Kieswetter in Kitchener, Ontario. Kieswetter then purchased the patented infrared technology in 1995. All of the equipment is built and sold through the Kitchener factory by a team of about 30 people. 

“We buy bulk steel, vapourizers and components for the cartridges,” McFadyen said. “Everything else is fabricated in house.”

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Today the company has placed its heaters around the world, and is now looking to expand its presence. Recently, the company formed new partnerships with equipment dealers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. 

“We’re working on New Brunswick and Quebec. Once those two are solidified, we’ll have the East Coast nailed. Then I’ll go west,” McFadyen said.  “We’ve positioned ourselves to handle a massive volume increase, for both administration and shop floor, now we need to get it.”

Heat Design Equipment is also looking to expand stateside, and recently landed on SealMaster’s preferred vendors list. 

“So far, we’ve had some pretty good success with dealers coming onboard and getting excited,” McFadyen said. “It’s definitely a challenge to sell this, but when the right people see the benefits, it’s an easy sell.” 

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