New Innovation at National

In January 2020 we proudly launched our new series of shot blasters.  The Apex series of machines represented an addition to the products that we manufacture in-house, and we are please to pass this innovation and quality along to our customers.  

Manufacturing in-house wasn’t new to us. We have proudly manufactured our walk-behind and ride-on scrapers for years, adding to their functionality and features as we received feedback from our customers.  However, designing and building a new line of shot blasters that offered true innovation and value-add features was an entirely new undertaking.

The six stages of development

We have six phases of developing a new product, starting with customer feedback. The team used this stage to identify the problems that contractors and operators are having with existing machinery. This leads to voice of customer (VOC) research, where 10 to 20 end users are selected to take place in a focus group. During this, they are asked a series of open-ended questions to find out what they require from a new machine.

Once this research has been conducted and our team understands what the needs are, they can move into the development phase. When developing the A-series, we tried something out of the ordinary during this stage. We worked with an engineer that had no prior experience in shot blasting or surface preparation equipment to ensure that we had an unbiased view of what the new machine should look like. From this, we got a more ergonomic design that was easier to handle for the operator.

After this, we moved on to the design and prototype stage. Here, we build a ‘Frankenstein’ machine, which we then run in many different scenarios. We change its components regularly and see how this affects its performance and efficiency, until we’re left with a design that we’re confident with. This machine then enters the testing phase, where it is sent into the field with a chosen group of customers who will run it and test its resilience and efficiency. Following the feedback, the machine enters a refining period where any potential issues are fixed. Finally, the machine is launched with full confidence that it is fit for purpose and solves an existing problem on the job site.

Built for purpose

Working closely with our customers allowed us to develop a machine that is built with the end-user in mind. 

  • The new shot blasters are pull-behind machines, meaning that the operator walks backwards when using it. This means that the operator is left with a clean surface that hasn’t been walked over with dirty shoes, which is particularly important for open, porous concrete surfaces as any contaminants can affect the quality of the final floor.
  • The machine’s new joystick also allows operators to stand to the side of the machine and operate it independently, meaning that they can check the blast pattern while it’s in operation. 
  • There’s shot valve control built into the blast wheel, which allows the operator to control the amount of shot going in and out of the machine. If the concrete being treated is tougher, the operator can open the valve to let more shot through. Alternatively, if it’s a smoother surface, the valve can be closed.
  • Finally, based on feedback, we also added lights to the back and front of the machine, making it easier for operators working in dark spaces.