As we now have two different averaging beams in our product line, I have been asked several times about their differences and the pros and cons of choosing one over the other.
Fact is, both the SUPER and the EASY Averaging Beam do a very good job evening out the rough spots in the base and securing a high road smoothness. They both work well with all types of controllers and sensors of our Mini-Line® levelling system, performing the averaging of the measurements of the ultrasonic grade sensors mounted on the beam.
So why does TF have two different types of Averaging Beams and why should you choose the one over the other?
The short answer is, it depends on the job and what you are looking for. For a slightly longer answer, I will go through the pros and cons of each type below – and add some points on how both compare with the competition. I will do the comparison to the Moba Big Ski prevalent in Europe, the Topcon SmoothTrac prevalent in the US - and for the oldtimers, the oldfashioned mechanical straight beam still found on the odd job here and there.
SUPER Averaging Beam vs. EASY Averaging Beam
The EASY Averaging Beam is our original averaging beam and its main major advantage over any other types of averaging beams relates to maneuverability. Because of its split-beam design, the operator maintains access to the screed between the front and rear Sensor Arms throughout the paving job, which is something many of our customers appreciate, and continue to prefer this type of beam for. The entire design of the EASY Averaging Beam is constructed to keep it very lightweight and easy to handle, and its compact nature entails that it can fit in the trunk of a standard car. This makes it a lot easier to actually use it, even on less high-profile jobs that can still benefit from the increased smoothening effect of an averaging beam, but do not warrant a cumbersome setup process.
The disadvantage of the EASY Averaging Beam, however, is that there is a limit to how long it can actually be. Because of the split-beam design, the maximum length of the EASY Averaging Beam is determined by the length of the tow arm on the paver it is used on, but even on larger pavers it normally does not extend beyond a maximum of 10m /30 ft. This is not enough for some paving jobs that have a beam specification of minimum 13m / 40ft. Moreover, the design of the EASY Averaging Beam does not enable the placement of the rear sensor over the paved mat, if the rear Sensor Beam is placed outside the screed.
To get this, you will need a SUPER Averaging Beam. With a full length of 13.2m / 43ft and the option to include a flexible hinge that enables you to turn the rear beam section to place the back sensor over the paved mat, the SUPER Averaging Beam is suitable for any high-profile paving job. It has a specialized, strong aluminium profile developed to secure high stability. In its full length it performs a better averaging job than the EASY Averaging Beam, as it is able to average measurements across a longer distance, so that even very long waves in the road can be eliminated. Additionally, the SUPER Averaging Beam allows for some extra nice features such as integrated light and using up to six ultrasonic sensors for the averaging calculation for the paving connoisseur.
The long length of the SUPER Averaging Beam of course means that it does not have the easy maneuverability and handling of the EASY Averaging Beam, and it also has a price tag somewhat higher than the EASY beam, but you can’t get it all…
For a quick overview, I have summarized the pros and cons in the figure below.
So really, choosing between the EASY and SUPER Averaging Beams is often a matter of general preference or the paving job specification.
SUPER and EASY Averaging Beams vs. the competition
Now, how do both the SUPER Averaging Beam and the EASY Averaging Beam compare to the competition?
First, let’s have a look at the basic paving skills.
As can be seen from this overview, all the major competitive averaging beams are able to do the job. Only the mechanical straight beam falls short in some situations, as its mechanical design has some serious drawbacks.
Next, let’s compare the averaging capabilities of the beams.
As can be seen from the overview, only the TF SUPER Averaging Beam and Moba Big Ski extend to the full length of 13m / 40ft required in some paving job specifications. As for flexibility in the setup, only the TF SUPER and EASY Averaging Beams and the Moba Big Ski allow for full flexibility in terms of length and sensor mounting, where Topcon Smoothtrac is a more static choice that does not allow for this type of flexibility in the setup. On the other hand, the Topcon Smoothtrac does have the ability to turn front and rear sensors like the SUPER beam and Big Sonic Ski from TF and Moba, which is where the EASY Averaging Beam and mechanical straight beam fall short.
The EASY Averaging Beam and Big Sonic Ski both can have issues in terms of vibrations of the outer sensors. Because the Moba Big Ski uses small extension arms to reach its full length, the structure holding the two outer sensors is very slim and easily starts to vibrate. Somewhat of the same problem with the EASY Averaging Beam, when used on very large pavers, if you fully extend the telescopic arms.
Finally, the SUPER Averaging Beam stands out as the only beam where you can mount up to six sensors and incorporate lights. Granted, four sensors should be sufficient and the light is more of an extra feature than an essential averaging skill, but still nice to be able to upgrade and see what you are doing.
The last thing we will take a look at, is the handling. While this is not important for the averaging job, easy handling of the averaging beam can make all the difference for the operator, and is often the key to whether or not you can be bothered to actually use it.
Here we see that in this area, the mechanical beam really falls short, and the difficulty in handling is the main reason this type of beam is now rarely used. Besides the mechanical beam, all the modern averaging beams are all easily assembled and cleaned, although the length of the individual beam sections of the Topcon Smoothtrac makes it difficult for a one man to mount it alone.
Only the SUPER and EASY Averaging Beams feature internal wiring, protecting the cables and making installation quicker, and as the most compact beam in the group, the EASY Averaging Beam is the only beam that can fit in the trunk of a normal car.
In conclusion, all averaging beams are able do the basic job, but the advantages of one beam over another is the flexibility and ease of use, as well as the desired amount of features.