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Vibrator Trails

In Slipformed
Pavements
Effects of vibrator frequency, spacing, and
positioning

BY ROBERT STEFFES AND SHANE TYMKOWICZ

ibrator trails are streaks in the hardened concrete. Its

V of high-paste-content,
l ow - a i r-content concrete
found in the vibrator
paths of some slipformed pave-
ments (Figure 1). The trails are
also possible to identify vi-
brator trails in a pavement
without taking cores. Be-
cause of the increased paste
content in a vibrator trail,
caused by excessive vibration of transverse texturing tines
the concrete and are prone to lon- sink deeper into the pave-
gitudinal cracking. ment surface at these loca- Figure 2. Close-up view showing a longitudinal
When revealed in pavement cores, tions, disrupting the normal band at a vibrator trail. Note the lack of coarse
vibrator trails exhibit coarse-aggre- tining pattern. Even if a vi- aggregate at the vibrator path, which indicates
gate segregation and low air contents brator trail is slightly below excessive vibration.
the surface,
its often exposed unexpected deterioration was no-
by the diamond ticed after only three years of ser-
grinding thats used vice. Cores removed from the pave-
to improve the ment indicated that the hardened
smoothness of the concrete contained less than 3%
pavement surface. entrained air. The probable cause
Diamond grinding of the low air content was thought
exposes the longitu- to be excessive vibration, but no
dinal bands of seg- studies were begun because U.S. 20
regated concrete was presumed to be the only in-
where the coarse stance of this problem.
aggregate content is In the following years, howe ve r,
reduced as a result more deterioration appeared, indi-
of excessive vibra- cating that excessive vibration was a
tion (Figure 2). problem. On U.S. 20, longitudinal
cracks appeared at 2-foot intervals,
Early Observations which matched the spacing of the
Of the Problem vibrators on the slipform paver
In 1990, the Iowa used for the project. During the
Department of same time interval, a similar longi-
Transportation tudinal crack pattern was noticed
(DOT) identified on an Iowa section of Interstate 80,
excessive vibration again when the pavement was only
Figure 1. Vibrator trails are easily seen because excessive as a factor in the three years old. The longitudinal
vibration pushes coarse aggregate away from the vibrator p re m a t u re deteri- crack spacing also matched the vi-
path, creating deeper texturing tine marks in the higher- oration of U.S. brator spacing, and cores indicated
paste-content trails. Highway 20. The that air content in the top half of the
ed the test sections were compared.
Iowa DOT personnel observed
number and positioning of vibra-
tors, types of vibrators used, vibra-
tor frequency, and paver speed.
Typical consolidation practices are
summarized below.
Vibrator frequencies. Vi b ra t o r
frequencies were found to vary
widely on each of the pavers. A dif-
ference of 3,000 vpm from the slow-
est to the highest vibrator frequen-
cy was typical. The hyd ra u l i c
control valves of individual vibra-
tors commonly allowed a variation
of several thousand vpm for va l ve s
at the same control setting.
Vibration readings were often
found to be outside Iowa DOTs
Figure 3. Note the decrease in air content when a faulty, uncontrolled vibrator specified limits of 5,000 to 8,000
about 5 inches below the top surface was running at 12,000 vpm. Cores taken vpm. In most cases, when the fre-
between vibrator paths in both the 12,000- and 5,000-vpm sections had about quency was outside the specified
the same air content. This indicates that the radius of action of the vibrator is limits, it was on the high side. In
much less than the 12 to 15 inches thats normally assumed when spacing one instance, a vibrator was found
vibrators at 24 to 30 inches. to be operating at 12,000 vpm.
Vibrator positioning. Typically,
pavement was 3% while the bottom from 4 to 7 feet per minute. Thus, vibrators were positioned at the
half had 6%. Early deterioration and the 5-feet-per-minute paver speed level of the pavers pan, and in all
longitudinal cracks were also ob- is normal while the 2.5-feet-per- cases, the vibrators were in a hori-
served in other Iowa pavements. minute paver speed is slow. The vi- zontal position parallel to the
brator frequencies were chosen to pavement surface. Howe ve r, some
Field Research Initiated fall within the 5,000- to 8,000-vpm pavers had a large variation in the
In 1995, a field research project range thats specified by the Iowa h o ri zontal position of the vibra-
was initiated to evaluate the effect DOT. This vibration frequency was tors. In one case, the center of the
of slipform-paver vibrators on the expected to prevent the formation vibrator ranged from 2 inches
air content of hardened concrete. of vibrator trails and was based on above the pan to 3 inches below
The study examined three vari- p re l i m i n a ry work conducted by the pan. In another case, a paver
ables: vibrator frequency, paver Iowa DOT researchers during the operator indicated the vibrators
speed, and vibrator position within summer of 1994. were at the pan level; however, evi-
the concrete slab. On three separate Three cores per test segment dence from cores showed the
interstate paving projects with three were taken from the pavements test vibrators were as far as 5 inches be-
different contractors, paver speed sections, both on and between vi- low the pan. The change in vibra-
was recorded and vibrator frequen- brator trails. The results of the re- tor position can be caused by an
cies were set to known values in test search are based on visual observa- inaccurate position indicator, sag
sections. The vibrator position in tion of the cores and air-content due to oil leakage in the hydraulic
the concrete was also measured, testing of the hardened concrete. system that holds the vibrators in
along with the spacing between vi- Each core was carefully inspected place, or loose bolts holding a vi-
brators and the distance from each for degree of consolidation and ag- brator in position.
vibrator to the pavement edge. gregate distribution, then sliced
Test sections on the 26-foot- h o ri zontally into three parts which Research Results
wide, 12-inch-thick pavements were water saturated before air con- Vi b rator radius of action. O b-
were divided into six segments to tents were obtained using the Iowa s e rvations of cores indicate the
incorporate combinations of two DOT high-pressure testing method. radius of effective consolidation
paver speeds (5 and 2.5 feet per may be much smaller than pre-
minute) and three vibrator fre- Observations of Contractor viously thought. Although a typi-
quencies: 5,000; 6,500; and 8,000 vi- Paving Practices cal slipform-paver vibrator spac-
brations per minute (vpm). In prac- The paving practices of the three ing of 24 to 30 inches suggests a
tice, normal paver speeds vary paving contractors who construct- 12- to 15-inch radius of action,
Iowa DOT cores commonly 5,000 vpm to ensure adequate When the vibrators were 4 inches
showed significant entrapped air consolidation. below the top of the slab, air con-
within 4 inches of a vibrator. For Maximum vibrator frequency. tent of the cores was more uniform,
instance, in a test section receiv- Figure 3 shows results from the indicating a more uniformly con-
ing maximum consolidation en- project where a faulty, uncon- solidated pavement.
e rgy (slow paver speed and trolled vibrator was found to be Figure 4 also reinforces radius-of-
8,000-vpm vibrator fre q u e n c y ) running at 12,000 vpm about 5 action observations from other test
with the vibrator positioned at inches below the surface. There sections. The higher air content of
the top of the slab, cores fro m were vibrator trails in the middle of concrete cores taken between the
the vibrator path showed that a the cores taken in the vibrator vibrator paths and the difference in
vibrator trail was starting to form paths, and air content at the mid- air contents between top and bot-
about 1 inch below the top of the dle of the slab was excessively low tom of the slab show the limited vi-
pavement. Howe ve r, this consol- regardless of paver travel speed at brator radius of action. This con-
idation effort was still leaving en- this high frequency. firms the visual observation that
t rapped air in the same core at a Controlled-frequency vibrators, cores within 4 inches of the vibra-
depth of 4 inches. Si m i l a r l y, on set at 5,000 and 8,000 vpm, were set tor contained entrapped air.
the project where vibrator fre- even with the pan, at the surface of
quency was 12,000 vpm at an es- the concrete. At a slow paver speed More Research Needed
timated 5 inches below the pave- and a frequency of 8,000 vpm, air Further research could help slip-
ment surface, a vibrator trail was contents in the vibrator path were form paving contractors to more
clearly seen passing through one below 6%. Thus, at 8,000 vpm, the uniformly consolidate concrete
c o re, but entrapped air was possibility of excessive vibration be- pavements and reduce the occur-
found in the bottom third of all gins to increase as the paver speed rence of excessive vibration and
cores taken from the same vibra- decreases. Vibrator frequencies entrained air loss. Needed research
tor path. may need to be reduced if the paver areas include:
Other evidence also suggests a speed falls below 3 feet per minute. The effect of tilting the vibrators
l ow radius of action for paver vi- Vibrator position. In a 12-inch- downward at an angle of 10 to 20
b ra t o r s. On the project where vi- thick slab, the vibrators were locat- degrees from the horizontal to
b rators we re operating at 12,000 ed at the top of the slab and 4 inch- increase area of influence
vpm about 5 inches below the es below the slab surface. Figure 4 Development of maximum per-
s u rf a c e, air content was less than shows the results of air tests on missible vibrator spacings to en-
2% at the middle of the core, but hardened concrete for A-3, where sure uniform consolidation
6% at the bottom. And cores tak- the vibrators were located 4 inches The effect of larger vibrator di-
en midway between the vibra- below the surface, and for A-2, ameters and increased ampli-
t o r s 812 inches from a vibra t o r where the vibrators were at the top. tudes on consolidation
pathhad air contents similar to
those from cores taken midway
b e t ween vibrators operating at
5,000 vpm. These air-content dif-
ferences between the bottom and
the middle of the same core, and
between cores taken in the vibra-
tor paths and between them indi-
cate that vibrator energy is con-
c e n t rated in the few inches
adjacent to the vibrator.
Minimum vibrator fre q u e n c y.
Visual observations revealed that
the cores from the 5,000-vpm test
sections had significantly more
entrapped air than the 6,500- and
8,000-vpm test sections, espe-
cially for test sections with nor-
mal paver speeds. The effect of
the increased entrapped air on
p a vement perf o rmance wasnt Figure 4. Air content of hardened concrete when vibrators are located at the top
studied, but it appears that vibra- surface (A-2) and 4 inches below the top surface (A-3). When vibrators are
tor frequency should be at least placed 4 inches below the top surface, the slab is more uniformly consolidated.
The influence of mix design on harsher, drier mixes used in todays tachometer. Also check vibrator
vibrator consolidation paving limit the vibrator radius of position; dont rely on paver-
Howe ve r, the current re s e a rc h action, making the typical 24- to control information.
provides enough information to 30-inch vibrator spacing inade-
make some specific recommenda- quate for removing entrapped air. Editors Note
tions to contractors regarding their Vibrator position: Set the vibra- This article is based on a paper pre-
consolidation practices. tor with the tip angled slightly sented at the Transportation Research
d ow n w a rd and as close to the Board Annual Meeting in Washington,
Recommendations For center of the slab as possible. D.C., January 1997.
Contractors The opening created by the vi-
Vibrator frequency: Set vibrators brator will fill with a more uni-
at 5,000 to 8,000 vpm for paver form concrete mix than when Rober t Steffes is assistant to the
speeds exceeding 3 feet per the vibrator is parallel to the sur- re s e a rch engineer and Shane
minute; for paver speeds less face. Also, placing the vibrator Tymkowicz is transportation engi-
than 3 feet per minute, consider near the middle of the slab pro- neer associate with the Iowa DOT in
using vibrator frequencies near vides more uniform consolida- Ames.
the lower limit, since vibrator tion throughout the slab thick-
trails may result if frequency is ness, resulting in more uniform
near 8,000 vpm. air contents. PUBLICATION #C970361
Vibrator spacing: Set the vibrators Quality control: Frequently Copyright 1997, The Aberdeen Group
at a 12- to 18-inch spacing; the check vibrator vpm with a All rights reserved