In business since: 2020
Location: Beaufort, South Carolina
Doosan equipment: DL220-5 wheel loaders
Doosan dealer: Synergy Equipment
Beer, baby food, wine. How are they similar? They all come in glass containers. You consume the contents, then toss the glass. While some of those binned bottles will be recycled, 85% of all U.S. post-consumer glass ultimately ends up in landfills. GlassWRX, an advanced technology and materials science company, is working hard to change that statistic. Why? Well, as the company’s vision goes: they see a "world without waste."
Launched in early 2020, the Beaufort, South Carolina-based company takes post-consumer soda lime glass from local landfills and runs it through a kilning process to create an innovative media called an engineered cellular magmatic (ECM), which has many industrial applications in resilient infrastructure. “You could say the starting point was foam glass technology, which has been around since the 1930s,” says Brad Graham, national director of site implementation at GlassWRX. “But then our founders and scientists took it to a whole new level. While ECMs are nearly 100% glass, they act and react nothing like the glass people expect it to.”
That’s probably why the U.S. Department of Energy is funding further research into the manufacture and application of ECMs. As the company’s brochure explains, “With ECMs we can make better, far longer-lasting and more eco-friendly concretes. We can create materials that are better at cleaning our polluted air and treating our water. We can clean contaminated sites, even remediate decades of nutrient and chemical pollution from the earth. ECMs are restorative and regenerative — by design.”
And design it they do. Thanks to an onsite ECM lab and test kiln, GlassWRX can adjust inputs, cellular size, temperature and surface chemistry to custom-engineer ECMs to a customer’s unique needs and specifications, whether that be in resilient construction or for blue-green sustainable infrastructure.
“It’s almost like operating a video game joystick. It’s very, very easy for the operator to fall in tune with operating the machine and getting it to do what you want. That’s probably one of the machine’s greatest features.”
Transforming the Glass
Engineering ECMs requires a steady supply of glass, so GlassWRX partners with surrounding county and municipal governments to divert post-consumer glass that is too small or the wrong color for other recycling companies from landfills to the factory. The facility currently receives two to three truckloads of soda lime glass per day, which are weighed and then dumped into piles. A production supervisor checks the glass for any contaminants before moving it into production. At the moment, GlassWRX processes around 135 tons of glass per day across three production lines.
To kick off the production process, a Doosan® DL220-5 wheel loader loads the glass into a crushing machine, which cleans it with pneumatic air pressure and crushes it into pieces three-eighths of an inch or smaller.
A magnetic block and trommel screen then remove any unwanted metal debris and residue. Next, a dryer ensures that the glass is dry enough to move to the ball mill, which uses 12,000 pounds of steel balls to grind the glass into a fine powder. The powder moves along a pneumatic conveyance system to a screener that ensures the glass particles are the right size. GlassWRX then blends the approved particles into a proprietary mixture before moving the blend through a kiln process, where the mixture is heated and combined with a foaming agent to help it rise from a 1-inch layer to a 4-inch layer, similar to baking a cake. The finished product is an ECM.
To avoid any cross-contamination of raw material with the finished product, a second DL220-5 moves the finished ECMs from the kiln to shipping preparation and storage.
“The reason we have two loaders is that even though our customers are fully aware that our product is made from glass, if they see a fleck of green, blue, clear or brown in the final product, they are going to call us because they can see glass in it,” Brad says. “Using the same machine to handle the finished product that also handles the raw feed stock would cause that contamination.”
When ECM is ready to ship, the GlassWRX crew pairs a DL220-5 with a light-material bucket to load material into 8-foot-high, open-top containers on trailers. For ECM stored on pallets, a wheel loader outfitted with a pallet fork plays forklift to fill the trucks.
“ECM is 15 pounds per cubic foot — incredibly light material,” Brad says. “To give you a comparison, marshmallows are 21 pounds per cubic foot. So I ordered the biggest bucket I could get for the wheel loaders because material weight is not an issue.”
A quick coupler on the wheel loaders allows the operator to quickly switch between the attachments without leaving the cab of the machine.
“We’ve given ourselves extra capacity for what we can use the machines for,” Brad says. “We switch to the forks and use it as a forklift and then turn it right back into a loader. Each time we switch attachments using the quick coupler, it's probably a 30-minute savings compared to changing them manually.”
Selecting the Right Machines
When Brad was shopping for GlassWRX’s wheel loaders, he recalled what he’d heard about the reliability of Doosan machines.
“I automatically started looking for names I knew, and I was aware of Doosan,” he says. “Oddly enough, there was a dealer that sells Doosan machines 40 miles away from where we were building the GlassWRX factory.”
Brad found his local dealer on the Doosan website and reached out to the Garden City, Georgia, location of Synergy Equipment to learn more about Doosan wheel loaders. He liked what he found.
“I made the phone call and told them what I needed,” Brad says. “We discussed various features of the machines and what I would and wouldn’t want. In a day’s time, they came back with a quote for the machines. The price point was quite competitive, and the dealer is very well thought of by customers. That was it. I made the decision, and I’m very happy with the machines.”
One of the deciding factors for Brad was how he felt behind the wheel of the DL220-5. The ability to adjust controls for operator comfort as well as an air ride seat option sealed the deal.
“These are like driving a Lincoln Continental versus riding on the back of an old tractor,” Brad says. “You can operate one of these machines for several hours and not have your back aching or your knees hurting or all the other things that occur if the machine is not very comfortable.”
Responsive controls give the operator more precision when loading glass into the crusher and stacking ECM into transport trucks.
“It’s almost like operating a video game joystick,” Brad says. “It’s very easy for the operator to fall in tune with operating the machine and getting it to do what you want. That’s probably one of the machine’s greatest features.”
The standard rearview camera in the wheel loaders enhances the operator’s visibility of the GlassWRX facility’s busy complex.
“Without that camera, you’d probably risk injury to property and person, especially on a site like this where there are people around all the time,” Brad says. “I can minimize the risk of property damage and see when there are people behind the machine. I think it’s probably the best safety feature on the machine.”
Tracking Machine Maintenance
Easy access points and simple maintenance checks keep the wheel loaders’ daily maintenance routines efficient for Brad so he can focus most of his time on the glass work. He points to easily visible lubrication points and fluid ports as two of the biggest maintenance benefits.
“I think the machines have some of the easiest daily maintenance checks I’ve ever dealt with,” he says.
GlassWRX uses DoosanCONNECT® Telematics to further boost the efficiency of wheel loader maintenance. The diagnostic tool allows the crew to digitally monitor the health, location and productivity of the wheel loaders and receive alerts about maintenance notifications. GlassWRX plans to integrate DoosanCONNECT Telematics into the company’s larger facility monitoring system.
“Our entire facility is designed for us to monitor everything that’s going on through the computer and track maintenance events,” Brad says. “Being able to hook these machines into that same system is one of the things I thought about when purchasing these machines.”
When Brad needs parts for the wheel loaders, he can get them quickly thanks to a nearby Doosan parts distribution center in Suwanee, Georgia.
“I was never concerned about the parts availability because I knew that the company already had a worldwide network of distribution,” Brad says. “I verified that there was a local outlet here for parts distribution and that I had serviceability coming from Synergy Equipment. Synergy has been very responsive and very easy to deal with. And so far, these machines are just perfect for how we’re using them.”