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Superpave Gyratory Compactor

Overview Background Test Description Results


Overview
The Superpave Gyratory Compactor (SGC) (Slideshow 1) is used to prepare
HMA samples for Superpave mix design testing. It prepares a HMA sample
using a compaction effort intended to simulate the effects of field
compaction. This way, relatively small, inexpensive samples intended to
simulate actual HMA field conditions can be used to test potential mix
designs and select the most appropriate one.
The basic SGC uses about 9.9 to 10 lbs (4500 to 5000 g) of HMA and
compacts it into a mold to produce a sample 6 inches (150 mm) in diameter
and about 4.5 inches (115 mm) high (Figure 1). Compaction is achieved by
applying a continuous load to the top of a sample while the sample is
inclined at 1.25 and rotates at 30 revolutions per minute. Ideally, this helps
achieve a sample particle orientation that is somewhat like that achieved in
the field after roller compaction.
The standard gyratory compaction procedure is:

AASHTO T 312: Preparing and Determining the Density of HotMix Asphalt (HMA) Specimens by Means of the Superpave
Gyratory Compactor

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Superpave Gyratory Compactor


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Overview Background Test Description Results


Background
The Superpave Gyratory Compactor (SGC) provides a method of preparing
laboratory HMA samples for testing that is meant to simulate field
compaction with a roller. Essentially, a load is placed on top of a cylindrical
mold (Figure 2) filled with HMA. The load is applied as the offset angle of
1.25 rotates around at 30 revolutions per minute for a given number of
revolutions, referred to as "gyrations" (Figure 3). Key parameters of the
gyratory compactor are:

Sample size = 6 inch (150 mm) diameter cylinder approximately 4.5


inches (115 mm) in height (corrections can be made for different
sample heights). Other heights can be produced.

Load = Flat and circular with a diameter of 5.89 inches (149.5 mm)
corresponding to an area of 27.24 in2 (175.5 cm2)

Compaction pressure = Typically 87 psi (600 kPa)

Number of Gyrations
The SGC establishes three different gyration numbers:
1. Ninitial. The number of gyrations used as a measure of mixture
compactability during construction. Mixes that compact too quickly
(air voids at Ninitial are too low) may be tender (prone to displace and
shove rather than compact) during construction and unstable when
subjected to traffic. Thus, Superpave mix design specifies a
maximum relative density (minimum air void content) at Ninitial.
2. Ndesign. This is the design number of gyrations required to produce a
sample with the same density as that expected in the field after the
indicated amount of traffic. A mix with 4 percent air voids at Ndesign
is usually the goal in mix design.
3. Nmax. The number of gyrations required to produce a laboratory
density that should never be exceeded in the field. If the air voids at
Nmax are too low, then the field mixture may compact too much
under traffic resulting in excessively low air voids and potential
rutting. The air void content at Nmax should never be below 2 percent
air voids. Thus, Superpave mix design specifies a maximum relative
density (minimum air void content) at Nmax.

Issues
There are two major issues with the SGC that should be known and
understood before using it because they can significantly affect test results
based on SGC compacted samples.

Non-Uniform Sample Density


Samples compacted with the SGC typically demonstrate non-uniform
density with lower densities near the sample edges. Procedures used to core
the middle of a full 6 inch (150 mm) diameter sample to obtain a 4 inch
(100 mm) sample (Figure 4) for use in the SPT have shown that the inner
core can have on the order of 1.5% fewer air voids than the full 6 inch (150
mm) sample. This issue is widely known but accepted.

Internal Angle of Gyration


Measurable differences in compacted specimen specific gravities have been
attributed to differences in compaction equipment (Harman et al., 2001).
One specimen compacted in one manufacturer's gyratory compactor will
not give the same specific gravity as the same specimen compacted in
another manufacturer's gyratory compactor. Differences in air voids
between samples of up to 0.8% can be expected (Prowell et al., 2003).
This difference is likely the result of differences in the internal angle of
gyration. AASHTO T 312 specifies a value (1.25) and tolerance ( 0.02)
for the external angle of gyration but not the internal one. The external
angle of gyration is defined as the angle between the mold wall and vertical.
The internal angle of gyration (Figure 5) is defined as the angle between the
mold walls and the upper and lower plates.
It was originally thought that the external angle of gyration, which was
easier to measure, accurately reproduced the internal angle of gyration and
thus was a good representation of what geometry the HMA sample was
actually experiencing. However, if the upper and lower plates do not remain
parallel and horizontal, there can be a significant different between the
internal and external angles of gyration. This out of parallel condition
usually results from the end plates flexing under load during compaction. In
Alabama SGCs Prowell et al. (2003) found that while the external angles
were within tolerance, the internal angles varied from 0.98 to 1.19 with
the upper internal angle usually being less than the lower one.
It is thought that this variation in internal angle is causing differences in
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compacted specimen specific gravities. In response, the FHWA has


developed specifications for angle validation kits (AVK) (Figure 6, Figure 7
and Figure 8) that can be used inside any standard mold and that are capable
of measuring the internal angle of gyration during HMA sample compaction
(Figure 9). This device was used by Prowell et al. (2003) to determine
internal angles. The newest AVKs do not even require an HMA sample;
they can be used alone in the SGC mold.

Mold Wear
Mold wear can also contribute to measurable differences in compacted
specimen specific gravities due to compaction equipment. Specifically,
Prowell et al. (2003) noticed that an NCAT mold (which is used
extensively) showed visible signs of wear in the compaction area. Further
analysis showed that this excessive wear led to greater clearances between
the end plates and mold walls, which resulted in unusually high end plate
movement. This end plate movement likely caused changes in the internal
angle of gyration. Mold wear can have a dramatic effect on sample specific
gravities causing changes of up to 0.028 in bulk specific gravity (Prowell et
al., 2003).
AASHTO T 312 does not currently specify measurement of the compaction
area of the molds nor does it specify what seems to be the critical
parameter: clearance between the mold walls and end plates.
Currently, internal angle of gyration issues have not been fully resolved, yet
the SGC is in use throughout the country. It is not uncommon to see
differences in measured sample specific gravities attributable to differences
in compaction equipment. Therefore, when comparing data from
specimens produced with SGCs, it is important to determine what types
of compactors made the specimens and if there is a known offset
between the two compactors based on internal angle of gyration issues.

History (Harman et al., 2001)


By the late 1950s HMA mix design was pretty well dominated by the
Hveem and Marshall methods. Other methods did exist, such as the
Hubbard-Field method, the Smith Triaxial Method, and the Texas gyratory
method, each one using their own unique method of specimen compaction.
The original gyratory compaction concept is attributed to Philippi, Raines,
and Love of the Texas Highway Department. The first actual unit was used
experimentally from 1939 to 1946. Two offshoots of the Texas gyratory
shear test concept were the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Gyratory Test
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Machine (GTM) and a French version developed at the Laboratoroire


Central des Ponts et Chauses (LCPC) called the PGC.
On the basis of NCHRP Project 9-06, the gyratory method of compaction
was identified as an acceptable way to compact HMA specimens based on a
comparison between field cores and laboratory compacted samples. The
GTM was identified as an effective machine with the Texas gyratory shear
test machine as an acceptable alternative. Subsequent to this, the FHWA's
Demonstration Project 90, Innovative Asphalt Mix Laboratory Techniques
found the GTM impractical and the Texas gyratory shear test machine
deficient.
A hybrid idea of the Texas gyratory shear test machine and the PGC was
suggested and pursued. Eventually, the angle of gyration was set at 1.25.
This was a compromise between the Texas machine's 6 (which caused
compaction to occur too quickly - generally in only 15 to 18 gyrations) and
the French machine's 1 (which, in some cases could not achieve enough
compaction).
Two manufacturers were contracted to build prototype gyratory compactors
based on the hybrid design. Although both met design criteria, it was found
that they did not compact mixes equally. After modifications, these two
machines were brought to within acceptable tolerances, however significant
issues (as discussed above) still exist with the SGC.
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Superpave Gyratory Compactor


Overview Background Test Description Results
Results

Parameters Measured
Relative density at different gyration levels. Apart from these parameters, the Superpave
Gyratory Compactor (SGC) is used to prepare HMA samples for further testing.

Specifications
Superpave mix design specifies density (as a percentage of theoretical maximum density) to
be achieved at each of the three compaction levels.
Table 2: Superpave Mix Design
Required Relative Density Specification
Required Relative Density
(% of Gmm)

20-yr ESALs1
(millions)
Ninitial
< 0.3

91.5%

0.3 to < 3

90.5%

3 to < 10
10 to < 30

Ndesign

Nmax

96.0%

98.0%

89.0%

30
Note 1
Requirements are based on the expected loading in the design lane for a 20-year period
regardless of the anticipated design life.

Typical Values
Compaction values depend on mix design goals but are most often 96% of theoretical
maximum density (4% air voids) at Ndesign. If a mix is designed properly, it should also meet
the Ninitial and Nmax requirements. Typical values for Ninitial are 84 to 91% of theoretical
maximum density (fine-graded mixes are higher and coarse-graded mixes are lower), while
Nmax is typically 97 to 98% of theoretical maximum density (fine-graded mixes are typically
lower and coarse-graded mixes are typically higher).

Calculations
Many tests and associated calculations can be done on samples prepared with the SGC.
There are, however, only two calculations specifically associated with the SGC:
uncorrected and corrected relative density. They are used to determine sample bulk density
at any point during the compaction process.

If the bulk specific gravity (Gmb) and theoretical maximum specific gravity (Gmb) are
known, then the relative density at any point during the compaction process can be
calculated using the following equations:

Uncorrected Relative Density (Interactive Equation)

Where:

%Gmmux = uncorrected relative density expressed as a percentage of


Gmm
Wm = mass of specimen (g)
Gmm = theoretical maximum specific gravity
Gm = unit weight of water (1 g/cm3)
Vmx = specimen volume after "x" gyrations (cm3)

Relative Density (Interactive Equation)

Where:

%Gmmx = corrected relative density expressed as a percentage of


Gmm
Gmb = bulk specific gravity
Gmm = theoretical maximum specific gravity
hm = specimen height (mm)
hx = specimen height after "x" gyrations (mm)

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Superpave Gyratory Compactor


Overview Background Test Description Results

Test Description
The following description is a brief summary of the test. It is not a complete procedure and
should not be used to perform the test. The standard gyratory compaction procedure can be
found in:

AASHTO T 312: Preparing and Determining the Density of Hot-Mix Asphalt


(HMA) Specimens by Means of the Superpave Gyratory Compactor

Summary
A sample of HMA is proportioned, mixed and short-term aged and then compacted with the
Superpave Gyratory Compactor (SGC) (Figure 10). Compaction occurs in a cylindrical
mold (Figure 11) that is 6 inches (150 mm) in diameter with a final sample height goal of
4.5 inches (115 mm). Corrections can be made for different sample heights. Compaction
occurs when a 87 psi (600 kPa) load is applied to the top of the mold as the mold is rotated
at 30 revolutions per minute at a 1.25 offset. The number of rotations, or "gyrations", is
determined by Superpave mix design procedure and is dependant on anticipated 20-year
traffic volume.

Approximate Test Time


About 5 minutes of actual test time in the SGC. Most of the time is associated with sample
mixing and conditioning.

Basic Procedure
WARNING
The SGC has several known issues that should be
understood before performing the compaction
procedure or using any test results obtained from
SGC compacted samples.
1. Prepare the HMA mixture to be compacted (Figure 12). This consists of heating the
aggregate to mixing temperature and mixing it with a known quantity of asphalt
binder (Video 1).
2. Condition the mixture.
3. Heat the compaction mold, base and upper plates in an oven at the required mixing
temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.
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4. Add the HMA to the mold in one lift (Figure 13).


5. Place the mold in the SGC (Figure 14).
6. Apply 87 psi (600 kPa) of pressure and a 1.25 incline to the mold assembly. These
values are programmed into the SGC.
7. Compact the sample to the desired number of gyrations (Video 2). Table 1 shows
the standard specified number of gyrations for each of the three compaction levels.
Figure 15 shows a typical progression of relative density vs. number of gyrations.
Table 1: Number of Gyrations vs. Design 20-Year ESALs
Number of Gyrations

20-yr ESALs1
(millions)
Ninitial

Ndesign

Nmax

< 0.3

50

75

0.3 to < 3

75

115

3 to < 30

100

160

30

125

205

Note 1
Requirements are based on the expected loading in
the design lane for a 20-year period regardless of the
anticipated design life.
8. Remove the angle from the mold, retract the loading ram and extrude the sample
from the mold (Video 3 and Figure 16).
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Superpave Gyratory Compactor


Overview Background Test Description Results
Test Description

The following description is a brief summary of the test. It is not a complete procedure and
should not be used to perform the test. The standard gyratory compaction procedure can be
found in:

AASHTO T 312: Preparing and Determining the Density of Hot-Mix Asphalt


(HMA) Specimens by Means of the Superpave Gyratory Compactor

Summary
A sample of HMA is proportioned, mixed and short-term aged and then compacted with the
Superpave Gyratory Compactor (SGC) (Figure 10). Compaction occurs in a cylindrical
mold (Figure 11) that is 6 inches (150 mm) in diameter with a final sample height goal of
4.5 inches (115 mm). Corrections can be made for different sample heights. Compaction
occurs when a 87 psi (600 kPa) load is applied to the top of the mold as the mold is rotated
at 30 revolutions per minute at a 1.25 offset. The number of rotations, or "gyrations", is
determined by Superpave mix design procedure and is dependant on anticipated 20-year
traffic volume.

Approximate Test Time


About 5 minutes of actual test time in the SGC. Most of the time is associated with sample
mixing and conditioning.

Basic Procedure
WARNING
The SGC has several known issues that should be
understood before performing the compaction
procedure or using any test results obtained from
SGC compacted samples.
1. Prepare the HMA mixture to be compacted (Figure 12). This consists of heating the
aggregate to mixing temperature and mixing it with a known quantity of asphalt
binder (Video 1).
2. Condition the mixture.
3. Heat the compaction mold, base and upper plates in an oven at the required mixing
temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.
4. Add the HMA to the mold in one lift (Figure 13).
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5. Place the mold in the SGC (Figure 14).


6. Apply 87 psi (600 kPa) of pressure and a 1.25 incline to the mold assembly. These
values are programmed into the SGC.
7. Compact the sample to the desired number of gyrations (Video 2). Table 1 shows
the standard specified number of gyrations for each of the three compaction levels.
Figure 15 shows a typical progression of relative density vs. number of gyrations.
Table 1: Number of Gyrations vs. Design 20-Year ESALs
Number of Gyrations

20-yr ESALs1
(millions)
Ninitial

Ndesign

Nmax

< 0.3

50

75

0.3 to < 3

75

115

3 to < 30

100

160

30

125

205

Note 1
Requirements are based on the expected loading in
the design lane for a 20-year period regardless of the
anticipated design life.
8. Remove the angle from the mold, retract the loading ram and extrude the sample
from the mold (Video 3 and Figure 16).
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