How do you pump concrete?
April 29, 2010 4:49 PM   Subscribe

How do you pump concrete up 8 floors?

I love watching construction work. They have the best toys. One of the coolest is one they use when building high rise buildings, which have poured concrete floors. It's a machine that parks down on the ground. There's a hopper where cement mixers pour wet concrete. And on the other side there's a huge arm which carries a big pipe, and has a flexible hose on the end. The arm is jointed, and some versions of this machine can reach up 8 stories, where they use the flexible hose to control where the concrete goes.

What I've always wondered is what kind of pump that thing uses? What can maintain pressure against a hundred foot column of liquid concrete (far more dense than water, of course) and not get jammed by the gravel that's in the concrete? Is it a gear pump? a piston? How do they keep it from getting wedged by pieces of rock?
posted by Chocolate Pickle to Technology (12 answers total)
It's usually just a big-ass reciprocating pump. The individual pieces of gravel typically aren't that large in this type of concrete.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:06 PM on April 29, 2010

I believe they use piston pumps. Here's a patent issued in 1967 describing a piston-type concrete pump.

Here's another patent, this time describing a dual-cylinder design.

Anyway, modern concrete pumps, like this one, use extremely powerful versions of the same thing, more or less. See here and here for more examples of piston-based concrete pumps.
posted by jedicus at 5:07 PM on April 29, 2010

The Husband agrees: It's a piston pump. He also says that 8 stories is nothing; on one job he was on the hpp (hydraulic piston pump) delivered concrete from the ground all the way to the top of the Comcast building, which I believe is the tallest building in Philadelphia.
posted by iconomy at 5:11 PM on April 29, 2010

The concrete pumps Ive seen dont pump constantly they kindof pump in steps
Like push then stop
They also us lube in the hose before pumping
The carpenters Ive seen allways use this stuff
posted by SatansCabanaboy at 5:13 PM on April 29, 2010

Check the external links at wikipedia Video!
posted by defcom1 at 5:21 PM on April 29, 2010

The Discovery Channel (U.S.) show "Extreme Engineering" has profiled the tools and techniques for pumping concrete 10s of stories above ground level. Check out the video excerpts from the topical episodes on this playlist.
posted by prinado at 5:27 PM on April 29, 2010

Supposedly 606m is now the highest they have pumped concrete, in the construction of the Burj Dubai.

At this point the construction style swapped from a concrete-based design to a steel frame based one.

Didn't help with your question, but I think it's interesting!
posted by trialex at 7:21 PM on April 29, 2010

OK fine, the Wikipedia article says that record has been broken...
posted by trialex at 7:22 PM on April 29, 2010

I used to receive Concrete Construction magazine at work. I remember seeing ads for Schwing concrete pumps. This page details the valves that are used in concrete pumping.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 7:35 PM on April 29, 2010

Semi-related to your question, I think this is about the coolest piece of concrete machinery I've ever seen. It's a drivable curb making machine that goobs out a perfectly formed curb just like a play-doh fuzzy pumper barber toy.
posted by contessa at 8:08 PM on April 29, 2010

Now that you know how they get that concrete all the way to the end of the tub start thinking about how they clean the tube after they are finished pumping.

˙ǝqnʇ ǝɥʇ ɥƃnoɹɥʇ ʞɔɐq (doɥs ʎɯ uo ɹoolɟ ǝɥʇ pǝdɯnd ʇɐɥʇ qoɾ ɯ23 ǝɥʇ uo ʇsɐǝl ʇɐ) ǝƃuods pǝzıs ǝʇɐɹɔ ʞlıɯ ɐ ʞɔns ʎǝɥʇ
posted by Mitheral at 8:34 PM on April 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

There's also a different mix used for pumping to height, it's thinner and the aggregate is smaller. It's not the same concrete that would be poured onto grade.
posted by ulotrichous at 6:35 AM on April 30, 2010

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