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Advanced Concepts & Engineering; the Coming Global Leader in Automated Aggregate Quality Control Testing

DEXTER, Maine, /PRNewswire/ — Through the enumeration of equipment available in the quality control world for aggregates and aggregate production, Advanced Concepts & Engineering (www.advconeng.com) is rapidly solidifying their rightful seat as the coming global leader in automated aggregate quality control testing.

Lead under the studious eye of Joel Costonis – President and Founder – Advanced Concepts & Engineering [aka ACE] continues to prove that ACE will be a force to be reckoned with.  Having gone from design, to engineering, to proof of concept to defining ACE’s dominance in a head to head time-to-test competition against standard method AASHTO/ASTM methods T11/C117 and T27/C136, Costonis has the eye of the industry watching as the ACE Auto-Grade clearly declares its advantage.

This past summer, Costonis arranged a head to head challenge where he positioned the ACE Auto-Grade against standard equipment and a seasoned technician to conduct standard gradations. The clear difference in a reduction of time-to-test, with the ACE Auto-Grade completing the test 48% faster than the standard, it was clear that the ACE Auto-Grade has begun to claim its place as the coming standard in automated testing.

We asked Costonis to describe the process he has gone through in developing the ACE Auto-Grade. “..fun, challenging, exciting and rewarding.  This unit quickly reminds one of the old adage that if it were easy, someone would have already done it.” Adding the he, his ‘right hand man’ Bruce Bushey, Director of Automation, and the rest of his team have “many, many thousands of hours, rewrites, and revisions committed.”

He goes on to add, “As a young man, I was taught by my father [Dr. Anthony Costonis] that one should do something they excel in, and be good at what you do.  Having almost 20 years in the industry, I made it a point to literally work every facet of the [asphalt] industry.  I pushed more than my share of wheelbarrows, raked tons of asphalt, rolled miles of road way, the first paver I ever ran was a 1964 Barber Green.  After years of being on the road, I crossed into operations, production and quality control.  This unit was born on a Friday night in July when I was waiting on a test and thought there must be a better way.  Years later here we are.”

Looking for further information as to the level of technology included in the ACE Auto-Grade, we sought further information. “The ACE Auto-Grade is not simply a mechanical device, it’s a solution.  In the industry, time-to-test can mean the difference between a great week of paving or many thousands of dollars in penalties and/or rework.  First we perfected the automation of the test, then we sped it up.  Well, now that we had a faster test, we moved on to the generated data and what to do with it.  In summary, for example a post burn gradation; from the time the sample is loaded and the report is automatically emailed to the road, the plant, the supervisor and anyone else that wants the test, only 11 minutes has gone by. Not to mention the fact that the sample can go directly from the oven to the ACE Auto-Grade.”

When looking at the unit, it’s easy to see there has been considerable engineering mastery involved.  When asked about the internal systems, following a confident smile, Costonis states, “As can be easily seen, there are numerous elements combined in proprietary combination.

Through superior engineering, proprietary software orchestrating automation in all of the items you see before you, the ACE Auto-Grade firmly delivers a first to market product guided by our trademarked Total Integration Total Automation Protocol. The design features of the ACE Auto-Grade introduce a whole new level of flexibility and mobility to aggregate testing requiring nothing more than a generator and a bucket of water to operate. It is worthy of mention that the system demands a standard 120v 15A service so the user is not required to provide dedicated services.  220volt or 50 cycle service is available as well.”

When talking with Costonis, he shows his feeling that his dedication to this process he has been on for over a decade is led by a passion to enable the industry at large to produce a superior product that will help insure the protection of infrastructure.  “My job is not to remove the technician.  My job is to give the technician the tools they need to properly evaluate the composition of the materials being used in their production.  One cannot fault a technician if the methodology being used is antiquated and inherently flawed by the very institution that governs the standards.”

I asked for further explanation. After looking through the collection of data in his office, Costonis states “First one needs to acknowledge the fact that in an average gradation, the material being tested is handled a staggering 14 times to conduct one test; moving it from a pan to the sieves, to the pan to the scale and on and on. Using the ACE Auto-Grade, the technician loads the sample at the beginning and unloads it when the test is done.  One test, one sample, handled one time. Beyond the human error factor that usually throws most tests – most of the time without the technician even knowing – there are multiple areas in each testing procedure that require study. For example, this is a copy of the original challenge to the methods I submitted to ASTM. When looking at the ASTM regulation specifically, the C136 regulation states quote ‘Also, samples may be dried at the higher temperatures associated with the use of hot plates without affecting results, provided steam escapes without generating pressures sufficient to fracture the particles, and temperatures are not so great as to cause chemical breakdown of the aggregate. Their own regulation defines the problem.

The addition of heat manifests numerous integral challenges to the process.  Heat, in and of itself, has the probable ability to throw details of the test [being conducted] off on multiple aspects. Without doing too much study on the probability of aggregate fracture from heat, the standard itself indicates the inherent risk of the very method it mandates.

Naturalist Ethan Shaw of Oregon reports that even minor temperature variations (>100F) seen at high elevations result in broken boulders and rocks.  Thermal Stress on different types of aggregate – while in a conductive heat setting as hot plates etc – invites thermal shock thereby instituting rapid thermal fatigue in the specimen being studied.

We don’t dry by heat.  In basic science we know that heat destroys and cold preserves.  We dry by evaporation.  When our samples are dry – on average 35% faster than an oven, they are cold, thereby preserved with no sample degradation.”

Seeing the unit, watching it work in conjunction with Costonis’ dialogues, it is clear to the observer that he has employed top of the line electro-mechanical process equipment.  Now about the data.

In an aggregate lab, one gets used to seeing certain items.  Some used for testing, office equipment etc.  Distinctly missing from the in-house lab at Advanced Concepts & Engineering is the all too common collection of pencils, calculators, collection of notes and a collection of papers being shuffled. Having used the unit first hand, the environment is clearly different.  When asked to expound of the preceding, again we are again greeted by the Costonis smile of determination.  Referring back to his research papers, Costonis states “Dr. Randy West of the National Center for Asphalt Technology calls for a need to ‘reduce the time lag for quality control information, and to improve the reliability of the data.’

Dr. West, as well as many other industry leaders fully acknowledge the fact that ‘most of the tests used in QC and acceptance testing suffer from poor precision. Part of the poor precision is attributable to sampling and testing variability which are related to the skill and ability of technicians’.  As I said before, it’s my job to empower the technician and remove the time stealing processes.  The unit is employed with our proprietary software that not only conducts the test, but completes all calculations required to deliver a certifiable result then delivers the same through an automated email system via the onboard WiFI.  A notable portion of test failures are the result of miscalculations and things of such. Pencils, paper, calculators.  We don’t use them here.  The unit produces the standard Power 45 reports internally with no prompting of the user allowing them to move on the next test.”

“I suppose if one really wanted to double check the report, the system interface is a Windows 10 fully functional computer with a calculator and Excel on it,” Costonis finishes with a confident grin.

I truly enjoyed my time at Advanced Concepts & Engineering.  When I questioned Costonis about the seemingly difficult task of having clients enjoy the ACE Auto-Grade as I did, he states that ACE will host showcases allowing folks to “play with the units” directly, even running a sample that they can bring to the showcase.

Costonis will be speaking at the ASTM meeting at the SeaWorld Renaissance Hotel inOrlando [Dec 4th through the 9th].  I would encourage you to attend as the ACE Auto-Grade [and ACE staff] will be in the Zander Room at SeaWorld Renaissance Orlando Monday through 8:00 am through 6:00 pm.

After spending a day with Costonis, one can clearly see that there has been nothing overlooked through ACE’s proprietary Total Integration Total Automation Protocol™. It seems to me that the ACE Auto-Grade – through its futuristic appearance, welcoming voice (yes, the unit even talks to the user), automated reporting and more – has defined that the future has arrived in portable automated testing.


ACE Auto-Grade system cuts gradation testing time 46 percent against standard manual testing

Dexter, Maine – August 19, 2016 – In a head-to-head test between the ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory and standard testing practice the fully automated portable testing laboratory beat the standard protocol time by 48 percent while maintaining accuracy within .00256 percent.

The ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory automates AASHTO T11 and T27 as well as ASTM C117 and C136 aggregate testing. It is fully portable, measuring 24 inches deep and 36 inches wide, with customizable feet or castors giving the testing deck a range of 37 to 44 inches.

“Our unit uses less power than a 15,000 watt microwave and you put it in the back of the truck,” said Joel Costonis, Founder and CEO of Advanced Concepts and Engineering.

Pike Industries donated five samples of raw aggregate and one blended sample for the test, which included sample preparation time, dry time, moisture calculations, sieve time and gradation calculations.

Using standard practice the process took 48 minutes. With the ACE Auto-Grade system moisture and gradation calculations were completely automated and dry time was reduced from 17 minutes to only 12 minutes.  The total testing procedure with the fully automated Ace AutoGrade system took only 25 minutes.

ACE’s proprietary sieves are 532% volume of standard sieves. Sizes range from 25mm to 7.5μ, with up to 15 different sizes. Sieve walls are slanted at 69 degrees, promoting motion of the aggregate and delivering a far more accurate result than a standard stack. Triangulating load cells have a maximum capacity exceeding 30,000 grams reporting to .1g.

The ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory is enhanced by the Total Integration Total Automation Protocol. This proprietary software fully automates the process so that users can enter test information and let the unit test and report on each size individually.  The user can choose which sieves are reported via an onboard touch screen computer.

Reports are delivered via onboard Wi-fi.  The user can then download using an onboard USB port, print using the onboard printer, or uploaded to the Ace Advantage Integrated Software Solution, which manages quality control data, ensuring accessibility of data 24-hours a day.

“Part of this totally automated, totally integrated protocol is to be able to have information for whoever wants it as close to live data as possible,” Costonis said.

“The unit is 100 percent automated, 100 percent repeatable and the results are certifiable because they cannot be edited,” Costonis said. “Our target is to change the way these quality control processes are done.”

Mr. Costonis was invited by ASTM Chair to present at the semi-annual  ASTM Meeting, December 5th through 9th [at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld]. Advanced Concepts & Engineering has further reserved the Zander Room at the Renaissance and invites all who would like to test the ease and effectiveness of the laboratory to bring samples of raw aggregates and blends [19mm and under] for a hands on demonstration of the ACE Auto-Grade

Advanced Concepts and Engineering, LLC is a pioneer in the aggregate industry. Company President, Joel Costonis, founded ACE as a way to overcome challenges associated with manual testing of aggregate materials. Headquartered in Dexter, Maine, ACE is a voting producer member of ASTM International and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as the American Society for Quality.


Mr. Joel Costonis
President, Advanced Concepts & Engineering, LLC







Advanced Concepts & Engineering is happy to confirm that we will be hosting a week long introduction to the ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory with demonstrations being conducted numerous times throughout the day as well as additional products the week of December 5th through the 9th. ACE will staff the room during the same hours of the ASTM meetings and further making staff available before and after as may be required.

While ASTM has no sponsorship or indicated onus in our demonstrations, ASTM has been supportive of our presentation that will be held in the Zander Room at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld Monday through Friday all day.

We welcome and encourage those that would like to test the effectiveness and ease of use of the ACE Auto-Grade to bring in up to 5 pounds [in the interest of expeditious testing] raw aggregate samples, 19mm and under, or aggregate mixes in the same size range. Also bring your email enabled cell phones!AboutACE-Image

ACE encourages quality minded managers to join ASTM here to “strengthen expertise through the development of world class standards”

Annual ASTM Meeting in Chicago

Advanced Concepts & Engineering participated in the Annual ASTM Meeting in Chicago, June 26th through June 29 th through the presence of its President, Mr. Joel Costonis. Mr. Costonis introduced the ACE Auto-Grade® Laboratory to industry leaders and the management hierarchy of ASTM International and noted the group’s excitement, enthusiasm and acceptance for the revolutionary fully integrated, fully automatic aggregate testing capability of the Auto-Grade Laboratory. Through its review for meeting ASTM International standards, the ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory continues the process – with no notable debate – towards full acceptance. ASTM acknowledges the generalized approval of drying aggregates by way of vacuum and concurs on the unique and proprietary methodology used within the ACE Auto-Grade.

After some discussion, ACE – a voting ASTM Producer Member – has been invited to hold center stage at the December ASTM Meeting being held at Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, Orlando, Florida with a comprehensive formal presentation on the ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory, it’s design, operational configurations and performance.

At present, ACE is making arrangements to have the ACE Auto-Grade onsite* with dedicated staff to conduct demonstrations for key customers as well as address questions and comments with one-on-one follow up meetings.

*The onsite demonstration the ACE Auto-Grade is not in any way sponsored by ASTM and is a stand-alone activity sponsored solely by Advanced Concepts & Engineering, LLC

Technological Innovation Leads to Birth of Advanced Concepts & Engineering

In an article published in January 2005, Dr. Randy West, Director of the National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University, provided an in-depth overview of the state of technology development in the aggregate industry, and the asphalt sector specifically, in which he pointed out that conventional practices for materials testing were costly, inefficient and unreliable.

In turn, Joel Costonis, Founder and President of Advanced Concepts & Engineering LLC, then employed as Production Manager [overseeing Quality Control] for Barrett Paving Industries – a Colas Company – had personally experienced many of the frustrations pointed out by West. Mr. Costonis firmly believed there had to be a better way. Looking at the array of tools and devices as depicted in the photo to the right, he reasoned that these parts and pieces could be holistically integrated into a single machine using the state of the art technologies now available to the industry. Putting together a team of leaders in their respective areas of expertise, they conceived, designed and engineered the ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory over a period of three years. Building upon Joel Costonis’ previous efforts to develop an earlier version of the machine for which he was granted a patent in 2006, Advanced Concepts & Engineering was formally launched in 2014.

ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory Introduced to Industry

Advanced Concepts & Engineering LLC (ACE) hosted a “soft” introduction of its core product, the ACE Auto-Grade Laboratory to a group of aggregate industry executives.

titapHosting the event at the Courtyard Marriott in Portland, Maine, Mr. Joel Costonis, Founder and President of ACE introduced the ACE Auto-Grade on April 8th, 2016, with emphasis on the features and benefits of the Totally Integrated, Totally Automated Portable materials testing laboratory for aggregate, asphalt and similar materials. Assisted by Mr. Bruce Bushey, Director of Automation for ACE, the integrated system features were demonstrated to Mr. David Duncan, Vice President – Quality Control of Pike Industries, a subsidiary of Old Castle Materials Group, executive members from Shaw Brothers and others invited. Mr. Costonis explained the planned timeline to market introduction during the summer of 2016 at the conclusion of industry group test and certification and beta tests planned with a number of key potential customers for the technology.