For the first time in its 66-year history, the Clemson Brick Forum (CBF) was not held in its traditional style in Anderson, South Carolina/USA, at the beginning of October. Out of concern for the health of the attendees under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, John Sanders, Director of the National Brick Research Center (NBRC), and his team went with a virtual format – and hit the mark despite all the difficulties caused by Corona. Just under 300 participants, several thousands of views of the around 40 presentations as well as 500 visits to the virtual sponsor booths prove this impressively. Despite the success, the event organizers hope that the purely virtual format will remain a one-off in every respect.
The Clemson Brick Forum organized by the NRBC is a place for sharing information and ideas for the brick and tile industry worldwide. Brickmakers and suppliers gather together to discuss challenges and present solutions. The technical programme has been growing and developing from year to year to meet the needs of the brick and tile industry. The technical programme covered a wide range from the preparation of raw materials through extrusion to drying and firing.
In the innovation session, for instance, Mac Steele, President of J.C. Steele and Sons, presented the safest way to “meet the beast” as he humorously put it in a presentation of the 120AEX extruder series from J.C. Steele. Christophe Brune, Project and Process Engineer at Lingl, continued his talk from last year with the second part of his observations on process technologies. Of course, the NRBC employees also presented their own research activities. Theodore Lentz, graduate student, for example, spoke on the possibilities for optimization of the solar reflection of bricks.
Presentations and virtual exchange were enabled thanks to a platform with an event app that John Sanders presented last year. With this intuitively operated platform, the participants were able to hold talks, show slides, at the same time make comments in the chat and post further information for discussion. To motivate the participants to use the chat function, prizes were awarded for the busiest contributors. And talking about prizes, the Harold Newman Best Speaker Award from the last forum in 2019 for the best presentation went to Tommy Scalf from General Shale. Unfortunately, he was unable to take part in the virtual forum this year, so that the award was presented to him elsewhere.
The video montage of last year’s steak cookout was probably only small comfort for the fans of juicy barbecued steak. But without doubt the virtual steak cookout in 2020 whetted the appetite for a – hopefully – real steak cookout next year.