On the Cutting Edge of Concrete Cutting

Published 24/9, 2014

ICS Blount continues to add new dimensions to technology it helped create. PDi’s Jim Parsons reports.

The roar of demonstration saws that typically echo through the aisles of the World of Concrete show was augmented with a different kind of buzz this year, the announcement that Blount International’s ICS diamond chain and concrete saw division had become the exclusive distributor of Pentruder concrete cutting systems in the Americas, including their high-cycle electric solutions

A new dimension
The agreement with Sweden’s Tractive and previous distributor Pentruder, immediately added a new dimension to ICS’s products, and provided a new, high-profile platform for the already fast-growing high-cycle sawing and coring technology to reach an even broader market.
“We had many current ICS and Pentruder customers stop by our two booths at World of Concrete and comment that this agreement makes obvious sense,” said ICS marketing director Bob Engel, who added that everyone involved is encouraged by the amount of sales activity experienced in the months following the announcement. “Both brands have established themselves as leaders in quality, performance, and innovation, and the Pentruder line is a perfect fit with the ICS pro line of blades, bits, and diamond chain solutions,” said Engel. “And by combining both companies’ direct sales and service expertise in the Americas, we can add more value to our customers’ concrete cutting businesses. It really is an ideal arrangement and promising opportunity for everyone involved, but most importantly, for the people who buy and use our products.”  

Innovative beginnings
Providing concrete contractors with reliable and efficient cutting solutions is not just a tradition at Portland, Oregon based ICS; it is the very reason the company, and its market exists. It was an entrepreneurial employee of Oregon Cutting Systems, parent company of Blount’s wood saw manufacturing division, who discovered that the precision grinding qualities of diamond chains made them ideal for construction and demolition applications. That led to ICS patenting and launching its diamond chain technology in 1990 for cutting concrete and the shipment of its first concrete chainsaw two years later. Nearly a quarter of a century later, the diamond chainsaw is a mainstream product, with manufacturers around the world vying for customers’ attention and investment. Yet despite the ever increasing competition, ICS holds the largest share of the world market with a full line of gas and hydraulically powered saws, and a broad range of diamond chain for applications ranging from reinforced concrete to brick and concrete block.
All chain products are manufactured at Blount facilities in North America. ICS makes two families of diamond chain in lengths of 254mm to 635 mm for different materials and user preferences. ProForce chain, built on the company’s heavy-duty Force4 chassis, is designed for frequent professional use. TwinMax chain is designed for less demanding general construction and lower-powered saws. Both include ICS’s exclusive, patented SealPro O-ring technology that reduces chain stretch, ensuring that the chain chassis lasts as long as the diamond segments.
In 2013, ICS introduced the Proforce line of diamond blades and core bits for the North American market. “This line of products includes blades with varying bonds optimized for materials ranging from cured, green and asphalt, tile and refractory, among others,” said Engel. “Offering this line of high-performance blades and bits has enabled us to provide a more complete solution for our professional concrete cutting customers.”
Headlining the ICS line of chainsaws is the recently introduced ICS 890 hydraulic saw, the company’s highest performance chainsaw for concrete, stone and masonry applications. “We made several important usability and serviceability improvements with the introduction of this new model, focused on the professional user,” said Engel. “Combined with our Proforce line of diamond chain, this is the go-to product for demanding applications and use models.”
The ICS 890’s gas-powered counterpart is the ICS 695F4, which also utilizes the heavy-duty Force chain chassis versions with SealPro technology.
More innovations are on the way, thanks to a comprehensive product roadmap that spans all key product categories. For example, the launch and subsequent growth of the ICS PowerGrit line of diamond chain and its ability to cut ductile iron, cast iron, PVC, and HDPE pipe has opened up a whole new market in municipal and private contractor servicing of water and waste systems.

Sharing the knowledge
Service and support for professional concrete cutters have likewise been a priority for ICS from its inception. Seven sales professionals cover US and Canadian contractors who need and expect an extremely high level of service and support. The US accounts for 70% of ICS sales, while an international sales and service network covers more than 70 countries, including North, Central, and South America. It’s that kind of reach that Engel says will expand the reach of the Pentruder product line more than ever before. The former Pentruder president and owner Terry Martin, now a member of ICS’s leadership team, said that more customers will understand and benefit from the performance advantages of the Pentruder family, while existing Pentruder users will receive the same high level of service, technical support, and replacement parts availability they have always enjoyed.
Another goal will be to help broaden the professional cutting market’s awareness of high-cycle cutting’s advantages. These advantages include smaller and lighter weight systems, high efficiency over the whole lifetime of the equipment, less input power required, less sensitivity to input power fluctuations, and avoidance of hydraulic oil.  
Pentruder equipment can achieve higher production rates as well. For example, the MDU core drill NTGRA utilizes a brushless motor that runs on single or 3-phase power of 200V to 480V and delivers more power to the spindle than any other drill motor. “It effectively combines two or three different drill motor sizes and types in a single core drill,” said Engel.
These advantages, plus the industry’s overall desire for more environmentally friendly products and technologies, would seem to bode well for high-cycle’s future. But Engel said that what is most important is that professional cutting contractors have the right combination of electric or hydraulic equipment and trained operators who know how to use the products safely, effectively, and economically. And ICS is committed to helping them achieve that ideal balance.
“ Our direct sales team will enable ICS to continue providing the consultative sales and training/support that will remain an important ingredient for success with both the ICS diamond chainsaw and Pentruder cutting system lines,” said Engel. “In addition, we are about to launch a comprehensive update on our ICS global websites that will give professional cutters and general contractors easier access to helpful product, support and application content.” It is also essential for the professional cutting industry to position itself for the future, especially with trends pointing to continued growth in non-residential construction, especially in North America and Europe.
“ICS is actively involved with the Concrete Sawing and Drilling Association, and chairs its Training Committee, where we see a continuing need to ensure that this industry is providing the necessary levels of operator training and application knowledge,” said Engel. And as those operators gain expertise, they will benefit from a continually evolving range of ICS and Pentruder products that will help them take advantage of new business opportunities. “In the coming months, our major areas of focus will continue to be developing the product portfolio for our core concrete cutting and finishing markets, while expanding sales into infrastructure markets like water and waste systems,” said Engel. “All of this requires continuing improvements in our marketing and distribution, so that customers understand the advantages of our ICS and Pentruder solutions and find it easy to buy and get support.”

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