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Batching, Mixing, Placing, And Finishing Steel Fiber-Reinforced Floors

Batching, Mixing, Placing, And Finishing Steel Fiber-Reinforced Floors

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 july 2009
By Heidi Helmink and james e. scHiBley
Bc, M,Pc, Fs S Fbr-Rfrc Frs
corrt fhg tho r  portt  to prog  hgh-qt foor 
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).”
Mixing MethodS
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.
july 2009
In a batch plant arrangement, the fibers can be addeda multitude of ways, as long as the fibers are not the firstcomponent, including: 
Adding to the aggregates on the conveyor belt andmixing in a normal manner. The fibers should not pileup or bunch on the way to the mixer; 
Adding to the mixer after the aggregates are introduced;and 
Adding to the aggregate-weighing hopper after theaggregates have been weighed. Usually, this arrangementworks best with a conveyor belt because the fibersand aggregates flow into the mixer together. Bekaertrecommends ribbon feeding the fibers into the mixeron a belt conveyor (Fig. 1).
PlaCing and FiniShing
SFRC can be placed and finished with standardequipment. If the concrete will be pumped (Fig. 2), overlywet mixtures—slumps greater than 7 in. (175 mm)—arelikely to result in line blockages caused by pump pressuressqueezing paste and mortar out ahead of the fibers andcoarser aggregate. The best cure for blockages of SFRC isreducing the slump or wetness of the mixture so a mat offibers and coarse aggregate can’t form in the line.The steel fibers’ specific gravity is greater than that ofthe coarse aggregate, so the fiber will naturally tend tolay below the top surface, but surface vibration is stillneeded after placement. Laser screed vibrators work wellfor consolidating the concrete without pushing the fibertoo far below the surface, but optimal settings should becoordinated with the screed supplier. Handheld vibratoryscreeds resting on wet screeds (wet pads of concrete, struckoff at the required finished floor elevation) can also be used.Once concrete is placed and screeded to the desiredelevation, use a check rod (also known as a modifiedstraightedge), like the one in Fig. 3, with the head in a flatposition to cross check the floor, perpendicular to thedirection of the laser screed or handheld vibratoryscreed. This is done not only to check for highs and lows,but to close up any tears or open areas that may havedeveloped during screeding. It also helps keep the fibersfrom protruding out of the concrete surface. Avoid usingwooden bullfloats or other wooden finishing tools. Theytend to tear the SFRC surface, while magnesium tools willdevelop a smoother surface.Steel fibers do not tend to affect the evaporation rateof the bleed water. When bleed water has disappearedand a finisher can walk on the floor while leaving a barelyperceptible footprint depression, begin floating with ariding trowel equipped with pans. A walk-behind machinewith a 3 ft (0.9 m) diameter pan works well in areas thatare too restricted for riding trowels. As with any concreteplacement, the finishers should avoid starting panfloating operations too soon. Premature floating wouldnot only have a negative effect on the overall flatness ofthe floor, but it would also bring the steel fibers to thesurface, creating more problems for the finishers as theytry to create a highly polished shine. If the pans areproducing large windrows or slinging mortar, andmovement of the paste at the top of the slab is revealingfibers, discontinue pan floating until these symptoms ofpremature finishing go away. If there is a danger thatdiscontinuing floating will result in crusting of thesurface, however, finishers can cover the revealed fibersby repanning the floor at a 90-degree angle to the originaldirection. Once the floor has been pan floated in two
Fig. 1: The Dramix Booster is a fully automatedtransport anddosing device for steel fibersFig. 2: A crew uses a pump and a laser screed to place a steelfiber-reinforced concrete (SFRC) slab. Unlike concrete withoutsteel fibers, pump line blockages often occur because theconcrete is too wet, rather than too dry Fig. 3: Check rods (modifiedstraightedges) are used by finishers to reduce bumps andfill in low spots when the concreteis still plastic. They can be fittedwith various pitch-adjusting tools
(Photo courtesy of Wagman Metal Products)

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