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The Magic of MASPAR ~ Wizards at Work with MASPAR – Part II

Written by: Nikki Alvin-Smith

Paul Noyce, Chief Technical Director at EChem Consultants, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., jokingly refers to the MASPAR {multi-array surface penetrating analysis radar} units that the company owns as ‘lawnmowers.’ It’s true that the appearance of the walk behind product mirrors the ubiquitous garden tool familiar to most homeowners.

It is true that prevention is better than cure. Whatever the future holds, it seems apparent that companies that are themselves governed by a forward thinking mentality and embrace technology, are the clear road ahead.

Paul Noyce, a highly regarded veteran of material science and in particular corrosion engineering and his colleague Dr. Shafique Ahmed, have gone the extra mile and added their own touch of wizardry to the magic of the MASPAR unit to successfully elevate its use, literally.

The fact is that the world is not flat. The engineering duo decided to adapt the MASPAR to attain its benefits in a vertical application to further its use to diagnose and assess corrosion, durability and likely ‘imminent defects’ on vertical surfaces such as train tunnels, abutments, ‘party’ walls and the like, to facilitate a broader use of its ‘magic’ non-invasive capacities to reveal data more than 20 inches below the surface.

As if this customization was not a sufficient step up the ladder for the usefulness of the MASPAR machine, Noyce and Ahmed further customized the product by improving the software within the unit to provide more accurate data collection, amounts and analysis

Noyce explains:

 “Corrosion on structural surfaces, such as decks and bridges and buildings, used to be assessed and evaluated via binocular inspection which was only as good as how close you were able to get to the structure or area of investigation, to what was visible to the naked eye from that distance. It was beneficial if you were able to reach and touch the surface you were inspecting, but that was not always possible.

This was a rather basic, and fundamentally flawed approach to evaluation of what de-lamination had occurred or the likelihood of imminent defects. The MASPAR’s capability to collect accurate data for the analysis of deterioration more than 20 inches below the surface was a game-changer. The non-destructive assessment was further enhanced when we changed up the software that came installed in the machine and wrote our own code for data processing.”

Noyce went on to explain that EChem Consultants was invited by MASPAR’s Italian manufacturer to share their advanced data analysis refinements of the ‘lawnmower’. The machine Noyce says is as easy to use as a lawnmower and whose use he can teach to someone in a matter of five minutes.

“ I declined to share our proprietary property as clearly our development of the technology provided our company with a market edge. We are able to offer a higher level and standard of data analysis to our clients as a result of our efforts, than they might find elsewhere. Obviously it is not just about collection of data. It’s also about its accuracy and the predictive analysis needs to be on point.”

The vertical application of MASPAR was a similarly logical next step in improving the material science applications of the unit in the field.

“The vertical implementation of the MASPAR is a valuable adjunct use in an array of evaluations, from tunnel walls to shared ‘party’ walls. The latter are often a source of friction between neighbors during development, rehabilitation, restoration and renovation of property. For example, an EChem Consultants team was recently in Manhattan, utilizing MASPAR’s vertical application to ascertain whether a the structure comprised of a party wall (a single) or double wall with a cold joint or separation. It was a good job the developer checked, because it turned out to be a single wall, the implications of which are obvious. Best to know before you start work.”

It is clear that the use of MASPAR is here to stay, as its applications are numerous and can save both time and money on a multitude of critical infrastructure projects.

Historically, the binocular assessment of corrosion to surfaces was a relevant method to ascertain ‘imminent defects’ in concrete and metal components of any structure. Indeed, due to the lack of technology available to ascertain the durability and stage of delamination of bridge decks, many countries around the world routinely avoided adding the protective layer of tarmac / asphalt to the deck surface due to concerns that the structural components beneath it could not be reliably evaluated.

Advancements in technology have rendered this level of visual analysis redundant, with the advent of the walk-behind MASPAR unit and the larger ‘air coupled GPR ‘ units available as tow units that can be pulled behind vehicles and offer a larger area of inspection and a faster speed of data collection, which is typically lower resolution and less than 65% accurate than the MASPAR data sets.

“ Obviously although MASPAR’s data collection accuracy and depth are superior to the air systems towed behind vehicles, those systems are useful for large scale projects such as bridge decks. Due to their massive square footage, bridge deck durability evaluation benefits from the speed and coverage area the air coupled devices offer versus the smaller walk behind unit. Traffic control costs can be costly for the use of MASPAR for an overall view of the entire bridge, especially in areas of high traffic density,” states Noyce.

But Noyce is loyal to the use of MASPAR within the project framework, even on large-scale projects.

“ In the future I can see a combination of both types of technology being married together for data collection. The air coupled system would complete an initial diagnosis to illuminate or highlight the areas of concern for imminent defect and the MASPAR’s superior level of accuracy in data collection, can then be utilized to do a literal and figurative more in-depth evaluation of the areas of concern. This offers the best of both worlds. It has always been EChem’s keen objective, to save our clients’ money and provide them with the very best data and analysis possible. This a key ethic at the company and one that stands the test of time with the high level of repeat business we see.”

In conclusion, it is surprising to this author that many regions of the world stubbornly rely on obsolete methods of visual inspections of concrete surfaces for signs of decay, delamination and corrosion. If you live in a region that suffers ice and snow in winter, as I do, the icing up of bridges that occurs before the rest of the road due to the intentional method to refrain from application of tarmac/ asphalt across the bridge deck’s surface seems shortsighted.  In addition the use of deicing salts places the bridge at a higher risk of corrosion than slab on grade road structures.

The bridge surface must necessarily be subject to unnecessary damage due to the harm caused by harsh elements of weather, salts, and high traffic use. To me, a bridge without a tarmac surface is a bit like going out without a layered jacket in sub-zero temperatures. My skin is going to suffer if I am dressed in a short-sleeved T-Shirt. Notwithstanding, the forward thinking city and state planners, developers, architects and engineers must all agree that technology can help save both time and money in the maintenance and the building of new infrastructure and buildings.

When asked what Noyce sees for EChem Consultants and their role in the future his focus was clear: “At Echem Consultants it has always been about saving our clients money in both the short and long term. It is much less expensive overall to take preventative measures before corrosion becomes visually apparent or at the very least have the opportunity to plan ahead. Most aspects of concrete structures’ build and integrity management are not a ‘fit and forget’ type of installation. I could see a sincere benefit to the industry in a subscription style service where regular check-ups are scheduled for evaluation. A bit like preventative health care visits to the doctor are utilized to plan ahead and prevent catastrophic failure. Just as a heart attack may be prevented by changes of diet or non-invasive medical intervention such as drug prescriptions. Critical infrastructure can be given regular check ups relatively inexpensively before the worst happens and an expensive repair is necessitated, or there is a loss of life due to a catastrophic failure. Areas of concern can be easily resolved before they spread further and do permanent damage.”

It is true that prevention is better than cure. Whatever the future holds, it seems apparent that companies that are themselves governed by a forward thinking mentality and embrace technology, are the clear road ahead.

About Echem Consultants:

Echem Consultants LLC is a material science consultancy whose primary focus is understanding material durability of the built environment. Through our Life 52® assessment approach [Laboratory, Inspection, Field Services, Engineered Design], we assist Architects, Engineers, and structure owners with long-term durability planning and predictive service life modeling for critical infrastructure 52 weeks a year. 

An additional advantage to employment of EChem Consultants is its ownership status as a certified women-owned business (WBE) and disadvantaged business (DBE) enterprise, thus fulfilling minority requirements for local, state, and federal contracts which have M/WBE or DBE set asides. Echem provides niche expertise in complex problem solving for critical infrastructure, landmark buildings, and new construction.

For more information, please contact Echem’s marketing department at 845-215-4370.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith:
British/American Nikki Alvin-Smithi s a seasoned Content Writer with a background in international commerce. Her works have been published worldwide across many genres including construction, investment, international freight forwarding, real estate, travel, the equestrian and pet industry and number in the thousands. Through her media enterprise company Horse in a Kilt Media Inc. Nikki collaborates with a variety of clientele to address their writing and PR needs, from Mom and Pop operators to Fortune 500 companies, from B-list movie/TV celebrities to Olympic athletes. Services include production of creative assets such as ghostwritten books, feature articles, blogs, vlogs, column writing, scriptwriting, speechwriting to copy for Executive Summaries, press releases, event coverage, brand building and marketing strategy.Additionally Nikki Alvin-Smith is an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician. Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard.

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