Schwing worker using power tools
What you need to know before selecting concrete-pump equipment

Concrete pumps are vital to construction projects, and their durability, reliability and overall performance depend on the quality of materials and the manufacturing practices used to create them. Importantly, these factors are also critical in delivering machines that can be operated safely on jobsites.

Concrete pumps known for outstanding performance tend to have traits in common: high-quality steel, advanced assembly practices and up-to-date components. By understanding these factors, industry professionals can make informed decisions when selecting concrete-pumping equipment for their projects.


The Importance of Materials & Manufacturing Processes

Steel plays a crucial role in welding heavy structures like those employed to provide stability for concrete pumps. The material’s strength and structural integrity make it ideal for constructing frames and load-bearing components.

But not all steels are created equal. Different grades of steel have specific characteristics and attributes. Higher-quality steels can offer increased strength, better corrosion resistance, improved ductility and enhanced heat resistance. They typically undergo stricter quality control measures during production, ensuring consistency and adherence to desired specifications.

Higher-quality steels may also be made from purer raw materials and undergo advanced refining processes. Advanced manufacturing techniques and precise alloying elements contribute to improved performance and reliability in critical applications such as building construction.

Using higher-quality steel when constructing concrete pumps can make a significant difference. Superior strength and durability of steel components provide increased resistance to the heavy loads and stresses encountered during operation. This helps ensure a longer life span for the pump, reducing maintenance and replacement costs.

Furthermore, corrosion resistance helps protect against rust and deterioration, which can extend service life and maintain optimal performance in harsh construction environments. High-quality steel can also withstand heat generated by the pump’s operation, helping prevent possible deformation or structural failures.

Carbon content is another major factor in the strength of steel. Generally speaking, the lower the carbon content, the stronger the steel and the greater its resistance to structural degradation over time.

Use of higher-grade steel, though, is only one component in ensuring stability, durability, reliability and safety. It’s critical that forming, welding and other processes be performed by professionals with appropriate welding and quality control certifications to ensure concrete pumps operate safely within design parameters.

Quality assurance and testing are the final ingredients to ensure a concrete pump’s readiness for safe operation.


Steel worker
Image 1. Higher-quality steels help ensure longer pump life spans and can reduce maintenance and replacement costs.


7 Critical Factors


Assembly practices have advanced over time, and today, equipment manufacturers must consider seven factors critical to concrete pump construction.

1. E-STOP buttons 

These are safety devices used to stop concrete pumps in the event an emergency. When an E-STOP button is pressed, all hydraulic oil is sent to the tank, and all functions are placed in neutral. E-STOP buttons should be checked daily to ensure they are working properly. Inspect each button for any physical damage. Harnesses and connectors should be checked for any frayed or loose wires. Also check that the connector is free from corrosion.

2. Structural steel 

Highly weldable steel allows for strong, durable components, ensuring a machine’s stability and longevity. All structural components should be checked daily for cracking, corrosion and deformation in the steel. If any of these conditions are found, the equipment operator should contact the manufacturer immediately about how to proceed. If repairs are necessary, use only manufacturer-certified repair technicians, following manufacturer-approved repair procedures.

3. Hopper grate switch 

This component monitors the position of the hopper grate. If the grate is lifted, a signal is sent to turn off the concrete pump. Once the hopper grate is closed, the pump will need to be reactivated. The hopper grate prevents operators and jobsite personnel from accessing the hopper area while the machine is pumping. 

This switch must be tested to ensure proper functioning. Check the condition of the switch along with the harness. Harnesses and connectors should be inspected for any frayed or loose wires. Also check that the connector is free from corrosion. The hopper grate switch should never be bypassed for any reason.

4. Safety guards 


Concrete pump safety guards shield operators from hazards at the jobsite. They act as barriers, preventing contact with dangers such as moving parts, high-pressure lines and hot surfaces. The proper functioning of safety guards is crucial for operator safety, hazard mitigation, regulatory compliance, equipment protection and overall risk reduction. Before each pour, the operator should ensure all safety guards are in place and free from damage. Any missing guards should be replaced immediately and before any work begins.

5. Hydraulics components & hoses

Preventing hydraulic leaks is crucial for several reasons. First, leaks can lead to a loss of system pressure, affecting a pump’s performance and efficiency. Leaks can also cause fluid contamination, resulting in accelerated wear and damage to hydraulics components. These leaks pose safety risks, as hydraulic fluids are often under high pressure and can cause injury to operators or nearby personnel. Additionally, leaks contribute to environmental concerns due to the potential release of hazardous fluids. 

All hydraulics components should be checked for leaks daily. Hydraulic hoses should be inspected for wear or frayed edges. Check for any leaks, kinks or damage to hoses. Hydraulic hoses should last between one and two years, with many lasting up to 10 years. If the hoses on your equipment are failing in less than two years, external factors may be reducing their life. When replacing a hose, take note of its pressure rating. Many concrete pumps use high- and low-pressure-rated hoses. Ensure the replacement hose you’re installing meets all pressure requirements.

6. Boom inspections

It is essential for concrete pump owners to stay current on boom inspections. These inspections ensure safety and help identify structural weaknesses, allowing for timely repairs or replacements to help prevent accidents.

Boom inspectors will check all structural components, such as boom sections, pedestals, outriggers and turrets. They will also likely inspect hydraulic cylinders, holding valves, boom rests, steps and safety decals. Any issues found during inspection should be addressed through a replacement or repair immediately by a qualified professional.

Use only manufacturer-certified boom inspectors. For a list of certified inspectors, contact your manufacturer. Owners who prioritize regular inspections demonstrate their commitment to safe operation, mitigating risks of structural failures and helping ensure a safer working environment.

7. Safety decal 

Safety decals are placed on machines to warn operators of hazardous situations. Operators should read and understand all warning decals. Safety decals must be replaced if they are damaged, faded, missing or unreadable. Ultraviolet radiation, rain, steam cleaning and other factors can cause these labels to fade over time. If replacement decals are needed, contact your concrete pump manufacturer.


Schwing pump construction
Image 2. Attention to the critical factors of concrete pump construction is essential to safety, given today’s advanced assembly practices.


The Importance of Quality Materials

The choice of materials in concrete pump manufacture is crucial for several reasons. Higher-quality materials provide concrete pumps with superior strength, durability and resistance to heavy loads and stresses.

Top-quality materials include:

  • S960QL — A high-strength structural steel grade with a minimum yield strength of 960 megapascals (MPa), known for exceptional strength and toughness. It is ideal for pump manufacturing because it provides lightweight yet robust components capable of withstanding heavy loads and stresses.
  • S890QL — Another high-quality steel grade with a minimum yield strength of 890 MPa, offering toughness and weldability. It is commonly used in demanding applications requiring high strength and structural integrity.
  • 700MC — A high-strength, thermomechanically rolled steel with excellent cold-forming properties. It is often used in automotive and construction industries for components requiring strength and formability.
  • S690QL — A steel known for outstanding strength, toughness and weldability. With a minimum yield strength of 690 MPa, it is used for heavy machinery, construction equipment and load-bearing structures.
  • S355J2 — A widely used low-alloy structural steel known for mechanical properties and versatility. It offers high tensile strength and impact resistance.
  • Aluminum — A lightweight, corrosion-resistant metal known for its strength-to-weight ratio.

The use of higher-quality materials not only ensures pump safety and efficiency, but also reflects a commitment to delivering reliable and high-performance equipment, setting manufacturers who use them apart from their competitors.


Schwing employee
Image 3. Higher-quality materials provide concrete pumps with superior strength, durability and resistance to heavy loads and stresses.


The Importance of Diligent Periodic Inspection

Testing and inspection play crucial roles in ensuring the reliability, safety and performance of concrete pumps. By conducting thorough testing, potential issues such as structural defects, material weaknesses or wear can be identified and addressed, helping to mitigate the risks of accidents, downtime and equipment failure.

Regular testing and periodic structural and operational inspection by certified professionals help maintain optimal conditions, extend the life span of the equipment and uphold industry standards. More importantly, these practices help ensure the continuous safe operation of the concrete pump.

A holistic inspection of a concrete pump includes the following elements:

  • Visual inspection — A thorough examination of the concrete pump using the naked eye or optical aids can help detect defects such as cracks, corrosion and signs of wear, which may indicate potential structural issues or maintenance needs.
  • Ultrasonic inspection — Ultrasonic inspection utilizes high-frequency sound waves to assess the internal structure of the concrete pump. It can identify hidden defects, such as voids, by analyzing the reflections of sound waves. This non-destructive testing method helps evaluate the integrity of a pump’s components.
  • Magnetic particle inspection — This inspection detects surface and near-surface defects in ferromagnetic materials. Applying magnetic fields and magnetic particles to pump surfaces can help reveal discontinuities which may affect structural integrity.
  • Spectral chemical analysis — Spectral chemical analysis involves analyzing the composition and properties of materials using spectroscopy techniques. In the context of concrete pumps, it can determine the chemical composition of specific components or materials, providing insight into their quality and potential vulnerabilities.
  • Hardness testing — This measures the resistance of a material to indentation or penetration. It helps assess the mechanical properties of a pump’s components, such as its strength or wear resistance. Various hardness testing methods, such as Rockwell or Brinell, can be used depending on the requirements.


Schwing worker
Image 4. Testing and inspection play crucial roles in ensuring the reliability, safety and performance of concrete pumps.


The Importance of Boom Pump Assembly

Choose a manufacture who’s boom assemblies prioritize stress distribution, durability and performance. Manufactures that invest in in more complex but also more effective methods, resulting in longer boom section and outrigger life spans, reduced stress, improved durability, fewer repairs and, ultimately, lower cost of ownership. Competitors opting for cost-saving measures often sacrifice certain aspects such as stability, longevity and ease of maintenance.

In the construction of box sections, choose a manufacturer that prioritizes the distribution of stresses across all four plates in their boom and outrigger sections. Manufacturers that use meticulous welding practices and grounds weld seams to prevent notching, resulting in improved stress distribution, extended life span, enhanced durability, reduced repairs and lower cost of ownership. In contrast, some manufactures often opt for more basic box sections, created with less expensive materials.

Choose a concrete pump that employs external levers for superior horizontal guidance of boom arms. These designs reduce stress on bushings and pins, as it spreads the load over a larger area. While this approach does increase manufacturing expenses through the longer pins and hydraulic cylinders with hammerheads required, it produces a far superior end product with enhanced long-term performance and reliability.

Finally, choose a concrete pump that incorporates a torsion frame that distributes forces along the machine’s entire length. This design minimizes stress on the steel. Some concrete pumps concentrate forces on a small area within their frames, causing excessive stressing. Using a torsion frame provides improved structural integrity and longevity.


The Bottom Line

Concrete pump assembly practices, steel selection, structural design and rigorous testing and quality assurance protocols are more than just simple elements of the manufacturing process. They demonstrate your commitment to delivering high-performance, durable and safe-to-operate equipment.

By prioritizing stress distribution, employing meticulous welding techniques and using advanced steel materials, equipment operators can achieve extended life span, reduced maintenance needs and enhanced cost-effectiveness. Your approach will underscore the importance of material quality, innovative manufacturing processes and meticulous attention to detail in the design and construction of concrete pumps for optimal performance and longevity in the demanding construction industry.



All images courtesy of Schwing America.