Unique concrete mold shapes the future of breakwaters

Spanish engineers Antonio Corredor Molguero and Carlos Fermín Menéndez Díaz were named finalists in the 2019 European Inventor Award program for their reusable mold. The invention enables patented concrete units called Cubipods to be produced industrially and used as breakwaters to protect harbors and coastlines.

Antonio Corredor Molguero (right) and Carlos Fermín Menéndez Díaz pose with a replica of their award-nominated concrete mold.
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For the construction of north and south breakwaters at Punta Langosteira in A Coruña, Spain, 1,580 15-ton and 960 25-ton Cubipods were used.

“Corredor and Menéndez’s invention has been a crucial factor in making the Cubipod economically viable for industry,” says European Patent Office President António Campinos. “Their work shows how universities and businesses can work together by licensing intellectual property.”

Developed by Spanish researchers Josep Ramon Medina and Esther Gómez-Martín at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) in Spain, the Cubipod’s cube-shaped design has protrusions on each face that prevent the blocks from forming a “self-packing” arrangement. This means that unlike conventional cubic blocks, Cubipods have no flat surfaces that can adhere to each other, eliminating the danger that a breakwater will compact at the bottom and open up at the top.

After filing a patent application for their invention, Medina and Gómez-Martín sought industry help to bring the product to market and began working with SATO, a marine construction company based in Madrid. Corredor, who studied civil engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid and is currently head of SATO’s Technical Office, and Menéndez, who at the time was SATO’s workshop chief and foreman, quickly saw the potential in Cubipod on account of its form. Based on their experience of working on breakwater construction projects, they immediately understood that in order to make the Cubipod economically viable, they needed to develop a means of producing the blocks in an efficient, cost-effective and flexible manner.

By working together and combining their expertise, the two men devised a mold that enables Cubipods to be manufactured from regular concrete in large numbers without compromising on quality or pushing up costs. Compared with other molds, Corredor says that the main advantage of his and Menéndez’s invention is that the block can be manufactured by lifting the mold. “That means we don’t need any space around the mold, and so the Cubipods can be created very close together,” explains Corredor. “What’s more, with one mold we can even produce several pieces per day.”

Production on site is a critical factor because a breakwater typically requires several thousand Cubipods, which would be costly to transport. Blocks can be winched into storage stacks or onto a breakwater by means of simple pressure-clamps. The clamps used to handle Cubipods also make them easier to store given their cubic shape. The Cubipod mold brings savings on constructions of up to 45 percent over the use of other bulky units or conventional cubic concrete blocks, according to Corredor.

The mold is commercialized by global infrastructure group OHL, through its subsidiary SATO, which is the sole licensor of the Cubipod. The mold has been used to produce the blocks for harbor defenses in Algeria, Denmark and Spain, with markets in Chile, Mexico and Morocco also being explored.