As is the fate of many standard tools we use, we rarely stop to think about the origins of cement mixers. Infrastructure and architecture as we know it today only exist because of the mixers we use. Across the ages, many societies developed ways of mixing sand, aggregate, and clay powder into something that could form sturdy walls. These walls made homes, art and many other architectural wonders.
At BS Power, we believe that learning from history is critical. To remind us where we came from and where we are going. So, in this article, we will take a step back in time and examine the history of cement mixers. Look at some of the earliest methods of mixing cement, then move on to how the cement mixer was invented and patented, ending with a discussion on the role of mixers in our modern age.
The earliest known occurrence of cement dates to 12 million years ago. Cement deposits formed next to layers of limestone that were buried by natural causes after oil shale formation. These ancient deposits were explored in the 1960s and 1970s. It is interesting to note that the Cretans and other ancient Greeks civilisations used lime (calcium oxide). Evidence shows that the Minoans of Crete may have used crushed pottery shards as artificial pozzolans for a pre-archaic hydraulic pozzolanic reaction. Later groups used these concrete-forming processes more frequently, like the ancient Macedonians and, three centuries later, Roman engineers.
When discussing ancient techniques, it is necessary to highlight the use of a unique natural powder that, when mixed with building materials, gave impressive results in strength. This specific powder was commonly found in the countryside near towns around Baie and Mount Vesuvius. When combined with lime or rubble, this material provided robustness to the cement mixture allowing civilisations to begin building remarkable constructions like the temple of Athena, with its large pillars.
The Greeks used the volcanic tuff of Thera as a pozzolan, and the Romans used crushed volcanic ash (active aluminium silicate) with lime. This mixture hardens when used in conjunction with water and may have been more resistant to corrosion. This material is called Pozzolana and comes from Pozzuoli, west of Naples, where the volcanic ash was mined. The Romans used crushed brick and pottery as a substitute without pozzolanic ash. The Roman Pantheon’s enormous dome and the Caracalla Baths are examples of these ancient concrete structures, many of which still stand today.
The Inventor Of The Modern Cement Mixer
Stephen Stepanian is credited with inventing cement mixers and their transport vehicle. While he was engaged in construction, Stepanian discovered several tools and mechanisms that improved the operational efficiency of the construction process, such as elevators, conveyors, wrenches, and sample holders.
In the early 1920s, Stepanian developed plans for an innovative device that transported cement from the factory to the job site, continuously mixing it. It would rapidly replace the horse-drawn mixer. Finally, he gathered his ideas and experience and applied for his patent in 1916. However, the Patent Office did not believe integrating trucks and cement mixers was possible, so the original patent application was rejected in 1917. However, 1928 Stepanian reapplied for the patent, which was finally granted in 1933.
Stepanian founded and ran several construction companies during his lifetime. In 2004, Stepanian was named one of her “Top 100 Private Transportation Professionals” by the American Association of Road and Transportation Contractors.
And A Decade Before, The Portable Cement Mixer Was Patented…
The first portable cement mixer patented in the United States, the “Mortar Mixer”, was patented on February 9, 1904, by Richard Bodlander of Breslau, Germany. The carriage’s front axle and wheels were replaced by a large drum with a shovel inside, which rolled on the ground as the carriage moved, creating a limping action.
On January 12, 1909, Alva of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, patented a portable blender invented by his Handsel, which used a hexagonal drum but did not roll on the floor. A coal-fired steam boiler connected to a piston pump powered the mixer. The machine even had a primitive gear transmission system with a chain drive.
The first real concrete truck was never called a concrete truck. The patent is actually titled “Apparatus for Concrete Work”. Records show that it was invented by Ackert Bickel of Kansas City, Missouri and patented in 1920 as U.S. Patent No. 1,363,304. The most notable aspect of this patent was the huge dead space on the truck bed.
When Milwaukee inventor Charles Ball obtained U.S. Patent No. 1,766,584 on June 24, 1930, for a next-generation concrete truck entitled “Mixer Agitator,” the patent was assigned to Chainbelt, also of Milwaukee. Over the next two years, Ball radically changed the design of mixing drums and incorporated them into his patents. For the next 40 to 50 years, the general appearance of concrete trucks mainly remained the same.
In the 1930s, the demand for concrete vehicles exploded due to increased highway construction. Roscoe Lee’s invention, the Transit Concrete Mixer, was a cement mixer attached to the rear of a standard truck’s frame and carried mixers mounted using a small crane. It was cheaper than a purpose-built transport truck, and once the contract was signed, the truck could be fitted with flatbeds, boxes, or dump bodies to transport other materials.
The Role Of Modern Cement Mixers
Every year, 10 billion tons of concrete are produced by thousands of cement mixers all over the world. This makes concrete the second most used material in the world. Modern mixers are much more efficient than earlier versions, but the overall functionality is essentially the same. Although inventors and engineers have tweaked designs and manipulated features over the years, the cement mixer still serves the same purpose they did decades ago. Modern cement mixers are much more efficient, thanks to modern technology and human ingenuity.
By the 1940s, engines and truck frames were meeting the needs of heavy-duty vehicles that needed to carry thousands of pounds of wet or uncured concrete. After World War II, truck-based mixers became more popular during the construction boom. The big drum mixers you see on the streets today have mostly stayed the same as Stepanian’s vision. Mobile cement mixers are available, with large trucks carrying them. Truck-based mixers today house an onboard engine that rotates the drum, and a series of paddles or screws driven by the same engine keep the aggregate, water and cement in constant motion. That way, the ready-mixed concrete will stay strong when it’s time to haul your stuff to the construction site, road or parking lot. Most cement manufacturers recommend limiting the injection time of the mixture to 90 minutes or less. Even better, you can have it on your website within an hour.
Technology has also changed the basic methodology of blending the crucial elements on these trucks. Many truck mixers still have rotating drums, but most need help to pick up and transport large amounts of wet cement easily. That is why most transport mixers have a separate tank on the truck. Rotating drums keep dry materials, aggregates and cement mixed throughout the process. A few kilometres from the construction site, drivers will fill the drum with water and deliver ready-mixed concrete.
How To Use A Modern Cement Mixer
Operating a cement mixer is simple enough. Still, precise steps must be followed to ensure that the mixture is mixed smoothly and thoroughly and that no one is injured during the process. At BS Power, we take this process seriously, so not only do we provide you with top-of-the-line products with all the necessary safety features, but we also encourage all our clients to study the manufacturer’s manual before using our machines.
First, you need to gather all the materials you need before starting the mixing process. Of course, this includes having cement mixers on site, access to water, buckets and a dedicated mixer. Also, it is vital to have the appropriate personal protective equipment (including but not limited to eye and mouth protection) should also be worn when working with concrete.
The water required to mix the correct concrete volumes should be measured using appropriate tools and materials. Once this is done, pour half the water into the cement mixer. If using concrete colourant, add it at this point and mix it with water according to instructions.
After adding the required water, you can turn on the cement mixer. Please wait until the machine reaches speed before cutting open the cement mix and pouring it into the cement mixer’s drum. Pour the concrete powder little by little into the drum so as not to form large lumps. Alternatively, you can add cement and other materials that make up a typical concrete mix.
The mixing process can begin once the concrete powder is placed in the drum. Depending on the model of blender you are using, this should happen automatically within 3-5 minutes. However, it is still common for clumps to form during the mixing process. To address this, add water from a spare bucket and complement the rotating blend with a manual mix to target those problem areas. Be careful when adding extra water, as this can quickly weaken. The result should be a tangible product that is consistent and viable. If necessary, test the concrete mix regularly until the desired consistency is achieved.
Once the concrete has been thoroughly and adequately mixed, it can be poured directly into the concrete formwork or poured using any transportation required on-site. This may include a set of hardened buckets or wheelbarrows. In either case, it may be necessary to use a shovel to remove the mixed concrete from the drum. Some mixers can also be tilted forward for a more efficient unloading process.
Why Cement Mixers Will Always Stick Around
This article examined how early civilisations used different forms of natural powders and additives to strengthen their mixtures and how they utilised these advancements to build bigger and better structures—changing the architectural world around them for the better. From these early material advancements, people began to look for ways to make better cement mixtures. With that, cement mixtures started to develop slowly. As we examined some of the essential patents in this space, we understood how inventors built off each other’s ideas giving us the cement mixers we know and use today. Many construction projects would never have been completed or even started if not for the mixers we use today.
We at BS Power respect those early advancements, and when selling our state-of-the-art products, we like to think back on all the minor improvements that culminated in the beautiful products we sell today. So if you are looking for a construction company that provides the best tools today regarding all the historical advancements discussed above, don’t hesitate to call BS Power and see how we can provide you with our modern cement mixers.