By Heidi Helmink and james e. scHiBley
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teel fiber-reinforced concrete (SFRC) contains shortdiscrete fibers that are uniformly distributed andrandomly oriented throughout the concrete to improveits structural properties. The steel fibers are typicallyused in slabs-on-ground to increase impact strength,flexural strength, energy absorption, toughness, fatiguestrength, and crack resistance. At typical dosage rates,construction procedures for slabs-on-ground don’t differgreatly from those used in conventional concrete. Butthere are some key SFRC slab installation items thatshould be kept in mind to make the project go smoother.
SeleCting the CoRReCt ConCRete MixtuRe
From past experience, concrete containing coarseaggregate with a nominal maximum size up to 1-1/2 in.(38 mm) can be used, but larger aggregates generally resultin more fibers at the surface of the slab. The mixtureproportions must provide enough paste to coat both theaggregates and the steel fibers. Specifications commonlyrequire a 4 to 7 in. (100 to 175 mm) slump after the fibershave been added, and this may require a slump before fiberaddition 1 to 3 in. (25 to 76 mm) greater than the final slumpdesired, depending on the fiber type and dosage. If slumpadjustment is required, a water-reducing or high-rangewater-reducing admixture should be used to maintain thespecified water-cementitious material ratio. To determinehow the proposed concrete mixture proportions willinteract with steel fibers, some fiber suppliers evaluate themixture with a proprietary program based on industrydocuments such as “Guide for Specifying, Proportioning, andProduction of Fiber-Reinforced Concrete (ACI 544.3R-08).”
Fibers must be distributed uniformly to impart thedesired reinforcement to the hardened concrete, so careis required during mixing to ensure that fiber bunchingdoesn’t occur. Bunching typically initiates as fibers areadded to the concrete, but it can be avoided by usingcollated fibers (clips of fibers held together with glue) orcontrolling the rate of fiber addition.High-performance steel fibers typically have aspectratios (length/diameter) greater than 60, and theytherefore tend to interact and nest together (bunch) inthe mixer. To alleviate this problem, high-performancefibers are collated into clips. Collated fiber clips havelow aspect ratios relative to the aspect ratios of individualfibers, so the clips disperse well within the mixture.As the mixing action continues, individual fibers breakoff the clip and are dispersed throughout the mixture.Once the fibers are properly dispersed, they generallyremain dispersed.Bekaert suggests adding collated fibers to a truckmixer after it is operating at the normal charging speed(12 to 18 RPM). This charging speed is required to carrythe fibers away as they enter the mixer. After all thefibers have been added, set the mixer to the highestmixing speed and continue to mix for 70 revolutions—about 4 to 5 minutes—until the concrete-fiber combinationis homogeneous. Other steel fiber manufacturers mayrecommend different procedures. Manufacturers oflow-aspect-ratio fibers, for example, may recommendloading fibers into a truck mixer prior to the otheringredients. Always ask for written instructions.