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HarbisonWalker International Introduces MULE-R

Oct 24, 2019 / In the News, Press Releases

HarbisonWalker International Introduces MULE-R – a lift-assist robot uniquely designed for the refractory industry

The innovative tool is the first of its kind for refractory material installation

PITTSBURGH, PA — October 24, 2019 — HarbisonWalker International (HWI), the largest supplier of refractory products and services in North America, has introduced the new MULE-R (Material Unit Lift Enhancer – Refractory). The MULE-R is a first of its kind, lift assist technology designed expressly for the refractory industry that provides workers with numerous safety, ergonomic, and productivity benefits while placing refractory materials in manufacturing environments.

The device has been created in partnership with Construction Robotics, developers of the original MULE, which is used for concrete block placement in the construction industry. The MULE-R has been adapted with a vacuum gripper specifically designed for handing refractory bricks in tight working spaces. It is available through HWI and its partner D. Martin Enterprises, a distributor of HWI products for the steel industry.

“Anyone who’s ever lined a steel ladle knows it can be physically demanding. The safety and workforce benefits of this technology for our installers and customers are tremendous,” said Don Abrino, Senior Director of Outside Technology and Open Innovation.

“As proven in the construction industry, the MULE-R greatly extends a worker’s ergonomic range, reducing the likelihood of strain and injuries, while allowing for greater productivity, efficiency, and an improved work environment.” added Abrino.

Unlike some other lift assist devices that have been available for manufacturers, the MULE-R is inherently fit for heavy construction, so it works exceptionally well in refractory installation environments. The free-standing device is simple and intuitive for users to operate.

Adaptation for refractory industry use of the Construction Robotics’ original MULE technology evolved out of HWI’s Open Innovation program at the company’s Advanced Technology & Research Center (ATRC). As part of its continued commitment to advance industry technologies, HWI created the Open Innovation program in 2017 to apply technologies and best practices from across all industries for refractory innovations.

“We’ve designed the MULE to work alongside humans, rather than replacing them. Our innovations are borne out of finding ways for workers to benefit from a machine taking the physical strain out of the work, or increasing production speed,” said Scott Peters, president and co-founder, Construction Robotics.

“We’re excited to innovate with HWI to deliver refractory solutions. With so many similar challenges in materials handling, serving the refractory industry is a natural extension of our mission to develop affordable, leading-edge robotics and automation equipment,” added Peters.

Currently, the MULE-R supports the installation of steel industry refractory bricks for argon oxygen decarburization (AOD), electric arc furnace (EAF) processes, or ladle installation end-users. The product is now readily available for steel industry customers, and HWI is working to adapt the technology for customers in other industries and applications.

MULE-R product orders include a comprehensive inspection, maintenance, and training service package. For more information, contact Mark Zikesch, Application Specialist with HWI’s Value Added Service (VAS) team at 219-299-4575, or Jason Crawford at D. Martin Enterprises at 219-872-8211.


About HarbisonWalker International
With more than 150 years of industry leadership and global recognition, HarbisonWalker International is the largest supplier of refractory products and services in the United States. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the company’s international network spans North America, Europe, and Asia, with 18 manufacturing plants, 30 distribution centers, and technology facilities in both the United States and China. Serving virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to enhance production and protect assets, HWI is consistently recognized for its talented experts, industry firsts, and intensely driven excellence. Visit

About Construction Robotics
Construction Robotics (CR) is reinventing the construction industry by implementing innovative technology focused on improving the health, safety, and productivity of the construction worker. CR’s products integrate seamlessly with the built environment of today and tomorrow. With over 650,000 square feet of installed masonry on over 100 projects ranging from multi-family homes to high profile government buildings and award-winning sports complexes, Construction Robotics is the industry leader in improving how we build. Visit .

About D. Martin Enterprises
Founded in 1975, D. Martin Enterprises (DME) is a small family run business that prides itself in bringing quality products and service to the US steel industry. A leader in providing skilled labor forces, non-ferrous and ferrous scrap, top of the line refractories, and equipment to mini-mills across the country, D. Martin Enterprises has a strong commitment to its customers. With over forty years of experience, DME consistently seeks out innovative ways to ensure its vendors and customers achieve maximum profits. Visit:

About HWI, A member of Calderys

HWI is the largest supplier of refractory products and services in the United States, with a history that spans more than 150 years. It is part of Calderys and is the brand for the Americas region of the Group. HWI counts 25 manufacturing sites and 20 distribution centers in the Americas, as well as the largest refractory industry research facility in North America. Serving virtually every major industry that requires refractory solutions to enhance production and protect assets, HWI is consistently recognized for its talented experts, industry firsts, and intensely driven excellence.

For more information, visit