Shotcrete, then known as gunite, was invented in 1907 by American taxidermist Carl Akeley to repair the crumbling façade of the Field Columbian Museum in Chicago (the old Palace of Fine Arts from the World's Columbian Exposition). He used the method of blowing dry material out of a hose with compressed air, injecting water at the nozzle as it was released. In 1911, he was granted a patent for his inventions, the "cement gun", the equipment used, and "gunite", the material that was produced. There is no evidence that Akeley ever used sprayable concrete in his taxidermy work, as is sometimes suggested. F. Trubee Davison covered this and other Akeley inventions in a special issue of Natural History magazine.
The dry-mix process was used until the wet-mix process was devised in the 1950s. In the 1960s, an alternative method for gunning dry material with a rotary gun appeared, using a continuously fed open hopper. The nozzle is controlled by hand on small jobs, such as a modest swimming pool. On larger work it is attached to mechanical arms and operated by hand-held remote control.
The dry mix method involves placing the dry ingredients into a hopper and then conveying them pneumatically through a hose to the nozzle. The nozzleman controls the addition of water at the nozzle. The water and the dry mixture is not completely mixed, but is completed as the mixture hits the receiving surface. This requires a skilled nozzleman, especially in the case of thick or heavily reinforced sections. Advantages of the dry mix process are that the water content can be adjusted instantaneously by the nozzleman, allowing more effective placement in overhead and vertical applications without using accelerators. The dry mix process is useful in repair applications when it is necessary to stop frequently, as the dry material is easily discharged from the hose.
Wet-mix shotcrete involves pumping of a previously prepared concrete, typically ready-mixed concrete, to the nozzle. Compressed air is introduced at the nozzle to impel the mixture onto the receiving surface. The wet-process procedure generally produces less rebound, waste (when material falls to the floor), and dust compared to the dry-mix process. The greatest advantage of the wet-mix process is all the ingredients are mixed with the water and additives required, and also larger volumes can be placed in less time than the dry process concrete.
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