Pumping of Concrete

Heat Evolution

Compatibility Issues


Pumping of Concrete

Multiaxial Loading

Constitutive Relationships

Performance Specs

Special Concretes

Quality Control Issues

NDE of Concrete





Placement of concrete in inaccessible areas has necessitated the use of pumps in today’s construction. Especially with the growth of ready mixed concrete across India, the need for pumping has increased manifold. While the ease of pumping depends on the type of pump available, the distance over which concrete is to be pumped, and the properties of the concrete, a number of finer aspects can affect the operation. These are discussed on this page.

Concrete pumps

Two types of concrete pumps (see Figure 1) are used:

  1. Direct-acting, horizontal piston type with semi-rotary valves set to permit always the passage of the largest aggregate particles. This type of pump can cover a horizontal distance of 1000 m and a vertical distance of 120 m. The concrete is fed in by gravity and is also partially sucked in during the suction stroke. The valves open and close with definite pauses so that concrete moves in a series of impulses, but the pipe always remains full. These pumps are capable of pumping 130 m3 of concrete per hour with 8 inch pipes.
  2. Squeeze pumps or peristaltic pumps are the ones that use vacuum pumping. These pumps can cover a distance of 90 m horizontally and 30 m vertically, and are capable of pumping 20 m3 of concrete per hour using 3 inch pipes.

(a) Direct acting piston pump

(b) Squeeze pump

Figure 1. Concrete pumps [Neville, A. M., ‘Properties of Concrete,’ Pitman Publishing, Inc., MA, 1981]

The bends in the pipes conveying concrete from the pump should be minimal in order to avoid losses. In addition, these should not be sharp. Each 10o bend is equivalent to an extra length of pipe of 1 m.

The pipe diameter should be at least 3 times the maximum aggregate size. Large aggregates can especially tend to get blocked near the bends.

The economy of pumping depends on the number of interruptions. Each time, the priming of the pipes using mortar is required (0.25 m3/100 m of 6 inch pipe), and the pipe also has to be cleaned.

Aluminium pipes should be avoided, as the Al reacts with alkalis in the cement, and leads to the evolution of hydrogen gas. These gases tend to introduce voids in the concrete, which reduce the efficiency of pumping.

Pumping enables concreting of inaccessible areas. Moreover, the direct conveyance of concrete from the truck to formwork can avoid double handling of the concrete.

Requirements for pumped concrete

  • Concrete mixture should neither be too harsh nor too sticky; also, neither too dry nor too wet
  • A slump between 50 and 150 mm is recommended (note that pumping induces partial compaction, so the slump at delivery point may be decreased)
  • If the water content in the mixture is low, the coarse particles would exert pressure on the pipe walls. Friction is minimized at the correct water contents. The presence of a lubricating film of mortar at the walls of the pipe also greatly reduces the friction
  • High cement content in concrete is generally beneficial for pumping
  • Water is the only pumpable component in the concrete, and transmits the pressure on to the other components
  • Two types of blockage to efficient pumping could occur: (1) Water can escape from the mixture if the voids are not small enough; this implies that closely packed fines would be needed in the mixture to avoid any segregation. The pressure at which segregation occurs must be greater than that needed to pump concrete. (2) When the fines content is too high, there could be too much frictional resistance offered by the pipe. The first type of blockage occurs in irregular or gap-graded normal strength mixtures, while the second type occurs in high strength mixtures with fillers. In order to avoid these two types of failure, the mixture should be proportioned appropriately
  • Other mixture factors that could affect pumping are the cement content, shape of aggregate, presence of admixtures such as pumping aids or air entrainment. Air entrainment is helpful in moderate amounts, but too much air can make pumping very inefficient
  • When flowing concrete is being pumped, an over-cohesive mixture with high sand content is recommended. For lightweight aggregate concrete, pumping can fill up the voids in the aggregate with water, making the mixture dry.

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