What's the longest thing you've ever seen on the back of a truck? My guess is pipes. Water, sewage and gas lines require miles of the stuff, and it's carried to jobsites by the truckload. A large job can require hundreds of trucks, all billowing fumes, just to haul the pipe.
These pipes can only be as long as the truck's trailer, and once on-site, must be welded together to the required lengths. That takes time and money, and creates future maintenance needs.
Looking at these problems, a company called Tubi came up with a brilliant innovation: A mobile HDPE extrusion factory that can be set up on the jobsite, squirting out pipe precisely where it's needed.
It can extrude 4-inch- to 26-inch-diameter pipe in lengths of up to 1,000 feet, either as straight stock, or onto coils that can then be unspooled along the route.
Reeling and Unreeling
Tubi's mobile factory isn't small; it's broken down into 20 shipping containers that each get lifted by crane onto a flatbed. Those 20 trucks drive to the jobsite, towing silos of polyethylene feedstock behind them. Upon arrival, it takes technicians 72 hours to set the factory up.
The Factory Set-Up Process
Even still, the time and money savings is huge. First off, because they can produce pipe of virtually any length they want, about 90% of the welds on a typical job are simply not needed.
Secondly they can get the factory to remote locations where shipping is impractical. For an irrigation job in New Zealand, "the company's mobile manufacturing unit produced 105 miles of HDPE pipe to irrigate 20,000 hectares of farmland," Plastics News reports. "The logistics of getting that much pipe to the rural area would have been 'spectacularly difficult,' according to a testimonial from a Downer Group project manager, who said minimizing truck traffic was a big consideration."
Thirdly, Tubi's approach cuts down on emissions. Using a 20-truck convoy to transport the factory may sound like a lot, but for a recent wastewater processing job in Florida--where Tubi cranked out 500-foot lengths of pipe on-site--it "eliminated the need for more than 450 trucks to transport pipe from a traditional factory, [Tubi COO Wes] Long said. Fewer trucks means fewer diesel emissions, less traffic congestion and no safety hazards related to unloading the big, heavy infrastructure products."
"The larger the pipe, the bigger the freight advantage is. And, it can eliminate thousands of welds and hundreds of days of installation time. The cost savings are tremendous. I think it's a game-changer."