Experiences with the use of AluFix

WS Schalungs- und Betontechnik GbR based in Havelsee in the German state of Brandenburg has been established for 30 years as an experienced formwork rental company and service provider. The managing directors Michael Warsow and Ronny Steinicke explain why they rely on AluFix in the rental pool and on the construction site out of conviction.

When and why did you decide to use AluFix?
We have been working very successfully with AluFix since 2013, both at our customers and in our rental pool. Especially due to the availability of 150 and 300 cm high panels and five widths up to 90 cm, AluFix provides for excellent coverage of our customer’s requirements in civil engineering and building projects. The system is significantly lighter than a comparable steel formwork system, can be moved by crane without any problems and also easily handled in our rental pool.

How do you rate the range of panels and the weight?
To form foundations, we use the 75 cm width and the flexibly deployable 75/75 panel. For heights we mainly use the 150 and 300 cm panels. The complementary widths from 25 to 75 cm allow for an almost unlimited range of applications and adaptations – both for horizontal and vertical applications, as AluFix is not bound to a rigid grid pattern. The panels can be adapted to suit every geometrical form without additional parts. To compensate for different wall thicknesses, we use the outside corners 0 and 5. The outside corner 5 has two 5 cm long legs. This enables us to significantly reduce the number of panel widths required. The most used panel size is 300/75.

Formwork’s average weight per m² is only about half that of comparable lightweight steel formwork. This is very much appreciated on the construction site as the work becomes considerably easier and can be performed a lot quicker. It is even possible for one person to perform the work continuously over a long period, as the 150/75 panel only weighs 23 kg.

Do you also use the formwork with a crane?
Yes, when forming large surface areas with repetitions. Due to the attachment of the alignment rails to the multi-function profiles by means of flange screws, we achieve a level of surface stiffness that enables us to move gangs and relocate them by crane. The simple assembly of the lightweight panels allows us to further reduce the formwork time significantly.

Which panels are rented most frequently?
The 300/90 and 300/75 panels – these allow large surface areas to be formed with only a few tying positions. They are often used to construct lifts, also when retrofitted, and also to form concrete columns and large wall units with integrated columns. Up to heights of 3 metres we have not yet been able to determine any measurable deflection. In horizontal applications for strip foundations we generally use the same panels with underlying foundation tape and tensioning via the foundation using the tensioner for foundation tape.

How do you rate the attachment of accessories and the panel connection by means of assembly locks?
In all MEVA panels, regardless of the type of wall formwork, the multi-function profiles are designed as closed and symmetrical profiles with integrated Dywidag threads. For this reason, we use short DW tie rods with nuts or MEVA flange screws. Workmen can attach props, rails or every other type of mounting device in a single operation. The connection of the frames with the MEVA assembly lock is superbly easy and quick. It can be attached vertically or horizontally at any position on the frame and aligns itself automatically.

What have been your experiences with regard to damage and repairability?
AluFix is light, but also robust due to the closed symmetrical, and thus torsionally rigid profiles. Over the last eight years we have had significantly fewer cases of damage and thus repairs to the stock in our rental pool than was previously the case with the lightweight steel formwork. Apparently, the aluminium formwork is handled with greater care. We have thus had to spend considerably less on repairs. For us, this is a major and positive factor and means that the economic viability of our investment is much greater and the rental business significantly more profitable.

The formwork panels are equipped with alkus all-plastic facings. How does this benefit you?
The benefit for us as a rental company is enormous compared to the old days when we still had formwork with plywood facings in our portfolio. We pressure-wash the alkus facing at 500 bar. Scratches and surface flaws can be repaired very easily, very quickly and, furthermore, using the same material. In the case of plywood facings, we had to clean every damaged area, remove oil residues, grind out the flaws and then glue in wooden platelets or fill out scratches with two-component adhesive. A long and complicated process. The service life of the plywood facing was limited by the constant presence of moisture and mechanical loading.

During eight years of constant use up to the present day, we have not had to replace a single alkus facing, and since then the repair costs in our rental pool have been 40 % lower. This makes our business substantially more cost-effective and we are able to pass the savings on to our customers. The use of the alkus facing in the MEVA frames provides us with the highest level of savings.

Which advantages does alkus provide for your customers?
The quality of the concrete surfaces is always consistently high, irrespective of the weather conditions and the outdoor temperature. They are no visible nailing hole or platelet imprints. The facing does not absorb water and does not swell – over the entire service life. The customer has far lower secondary costs due to repairs during use on the construction site.

How long is the average service life of the AluFix panels in your rental pool?
Our AluFix panels have been in constant use since 2013, i.e. for eight years, with a utilisation rate of 70 to 75% and continuous turnaround – and they are still in good condition.

How do you rate AluFix compared to systems made of steel or plastic?
A wall formwork made of aluminium, designed like AluFix, is clearly the better, more cost-­effective ­alternative to steel. With a panel height of 3 ­metres, the system is unbeatable. No other system can match this – whether made of steel or plastic. AluFix is very light and has few tying positions, but is also robust and highly resilient. The panels do not have to be connected in a predefined and restricted grid pattern. Formwork panels from other manufacturers, on the other hand, have to be connected by means of precisely aligned holes; they lack the flexibility required to adapt the panels to suit different geometries.

And with regards to economic efficiency?
A use-by date is stamped into plastic formwork. That means every purchaser sees that he has to take his formwork out of service and have it recycled after ten years at the latest due to the ageing of the plastic. AluFix can be used indefinitely and can be repaired. Furthermore, it requires fewer parts and, as we have been able to observe, saves time during use. This has a very positive effect on the cost-effectiveness.

How would you summarise the differences between a steel frame formwork with small surface areas and AluFix?
We consider the significantly lower panel weight and the long service life of both the frame and the alkus facing to be fundamental for the cost-efficient use of AluFix in our rental pool. To the best of our knowledge and also according to evaluations performed by construction companies that rent our formwork, there is presently no wall formwork system on the market that can be used anywhere near as easily and quickly as the aluminium AluFix system. We are generally able to use AluFix at least 25 to 30% quicker than formwork panels – whether made of steel or plastic – with predefined panel connection holes that are subject to a fixed grid pattern. This has enabled us to very successfully expand our business over the course of the last few years. We are able to offer our customers shorter formwork times and thus, all told, significantly more economical use of the formwork.

What developments are you expecting with regard to formwork services?
Our customers expect us to offer an all-in-one package that covers all necessary services rather than a list of individual services – including formwork planning; economic viability studies; secondary costs that occur after return; and transport and return transport. This creates a high level of customer trust, as it enables him to calculate his output more reliably. We have been running our formwork rental pool in Brandenburg with this service very successfully for 30 years now.