The Mobile Load Simulator (MLS), designed and developed locally for the testing of the load-bearing capacity of highways and airport runways, was recently completed and exported to a client in China.
The local development and manufacture of such road testing equipment are great testament to South African ingenuity and skills, says Professor Fred Hugo, of Stellenbosch University.
“The MLS is the fifth edition in the series of full-scale trafficking machines that was locally produced during the past decade,” he states. This MLS is the third such export to China where they are being used by universities and road authorities, he adds.
Stellenbosch-based MLS Test Systems, a South African company, developed the system.
Prior to the development of the full-scale machine, a one-third-scaled version – the MMLS3 – was produced in the Western Cape to simulate its capabilities.
Hugo says that the first full-scale MLS was completed in 2007 in Epping, in the Western Cape. Since then, Pretoria-based protected mobility solutions company LMT Ltd has been responsible for the manufacturing, production and supply of MLS systems.
Currently, 25 MLS units operate globally.
In 2014, MLS Test Systems became a subsidiary of UK-based pavement testing equipment company PaveTesting Ltd, thereby building on that company’s extensive experience in the design, manufacture and supply of ancillary advanced pavement testing equipment. “This expanded the market of the MLS trafficking machines globally,” states Hugo.
The MLS is used for evaluating the durability of pavements, road surfaces and runways. Hugo explains that full-scale accelerated pavement testing (APT) consists of the application of millions of simulated truck axle load applications to a road or airport pavement, thereby simulating 20 years of traffic demand.
APT data is used to determine the behaviour and performance of such a pavement in less than 10% of real time. “The application and analysis of the test system has developed in parallel globally, yielding an extensive published database,” he says.
Meanwhile, prior to shipping, the MLS was transported by road to the Durban harbour at the end of January. The machine was then driven up the boarding ramp of a roll-on, roll-off ship under its own power using a remote control module. The MLS is expected to arrive in Nanjing this month.
After final acceptance by the client, the MLS will be commissioned for laboratory and field testing.