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The Benefits of a Reusable Concrete Formliner

Posted on: September 19th, 2023 by mandig

The Benefits of a Reusable Concrete Formliner

Learning more about reusable concrete formliner materials may help you decide if your project can benefit from using them. These tools are used in the construction industry to mold plain concrete into decorative concrete pieces. They are a cost-effective way to mimic expensive materials, such as brick, stone, and wood, using concrete. They can be used in a variety of cast-in-place, precast, and tilt-up jobs to enhance bridges, parks, residential areas, and other architectural concrete projects.

When choosing the best form liner material, you’ll want to consider how many times you want to use it. The types of materials used to make them play a big part in their longevity. Some materials are made to withstand hundreds of pulls, but others are only good for one use.

What Is a Reusable Concrete Formliner?

What separates reusable liners from single-use ones is their ability to generate multiple pulls before they wear down. Reusable formliners are made of stronger, more durable materials that last longer as long as they are properly cared for between uses.

What Is It Made Of?

No matter what material you choose, a good way to preserve a formliner for reuse is by applying a release agent before each use to limit adhesion to the concrete. The 4 main materials used include:

1. Urethane Rubber

Among all the materials used to make concrete formliners, urethane is the best option for reuse. It is a very high-quality, durable, and flexible material that is poured over a master to create panels of various shapes and sizes. It is the only material with multi-reuse potential, as a single liner can achieve as many as 100 pulls.

Urethane is great for custom patterns with high detail and depth, custom panel sizes, and, most importantly, large projects that require high reuse. Also, when it is bonded to a plywood backing, it makes it easier to move and work with.

2. Foam

As a lightweight material, polystyrene foam is easy to use and trim to the size you desire. It can be either hot wire cut or molded to generate a smooth finish on concrete, but it is generally limited in the shapes it can create if you intend to reuse the mold more than once.

It is a decent alternative to urethane rubber, but it must be coated with a 2-part urethane encapsulant of some kind, or it will be destroyed in the stripping process after one use. For this purpose, VFI offers VFI-2538 70 D EPS Form Hard Coat, which creates a uniform and releasable surface when casting concrete. When coated, foam liners can be reused if maintained, but they will not produce nearly as many castings as urethane rubber.

3. Plastic

The number of uses you’ll get from plastic will depend on the type of plastic used and its thickness. Plastics such as styrene and ABS are used in form lining, but only ABS is capable of multiple uses (usually up to 5). While it’s more cost-effective, it won’t provide nearly as many pulls as urethane.

Plastic formliners also provide concrete with a subtle, less detailed finish since they are made using a vacuum-forming process. Plastic is a desired material if you’re working on smaller projects where only basic patterns are needed and high reuse is unnecessary.

4. Fiberglass

Concrete formliners were once made of fiberglass sheets fastened to a form to create basic ribbed patterns. As new materials and techniques emerged, fiberglass took a backseat in the industry since it was much more time-consuming to use. Urethane rubber is easier to work with and produces results just as good in most applications. If more than 3 inches of relief is needed, fiberglass is preferred, though urethane is capable of high reliefs as well.

Benefits of Urethane Rubber

  • Cost efficiency – While urethane rubber is a more costly material, its reuse potential more than makes up for the initial cost. With proper cleaning and storage, you’ll be able to maximize the life of your reusable concrete formliner.
  • Durability – Most urethane formliners are made of solid rubber, so they have the strength to endure multiple pulls. The best reusable ones use higher durometer urethanes, typically between 70A – 90A. The harder the material, the more capable it is of maintaining its strength over time.
  • Flexibility – Urethane can be more flexible or rigid depending on what kind of incuts you require in the design of your formliner. This increases the design potential you have while the material maintains its reusable nature.
  • Versatility – Unlike other materials, urethane can copy extreme detail from a master and transfer those details onto wet concrete. You’re then left with concrete pieces that have the realistic finish you desire. There’s no limit to the concrete textures, patterns, or designs you can create with urethane. It is also capable of creating reusable concrete formliners of any shape or size needed.
  • Consistency – Because urethane concrete formliners have such high reuse potential, they produce repeatable, uniform patterns after each use. Urethane reflects the same amount of detail in every cast, so large projects are desirable and seamless.

VFI Urethane Rubbers

VFI manufactures various urethane rubbers for the creation of reusable concrete formliners. Depending on the detail desired, we generally recommend the 50A-90A rubbers in our 2100 series. Our VFI-3170 and VFI-3180 rubbers are also excellent materials but must be used in controlled, high-production environments. If you’re interested in either product line, contact VFI today for more information.

Why Polyurethane Formliners Are the Best for Concrete Projects

Posted on: September 11th, 2023 by mandig

Why Polyurethane Formliners Are the Best for Concrete Projects

Unlike traditional materials such as plastic or foam, polyurethane formliners offer a unique blend of qualities that make them the superior choice for concrete projects. One of urethane’s most remarkable characteristics is its flexibility. Due to its flexible nature, it can replicate complex patterns and intricate designs, including incuts, curves, and irregular shapes. It has unlimited design potential for replicating natural materials, pushing boundaries with abstract patterns, and even incorporating logos into architecture.

Other, more rigid materials can’t achieve the same highly realistic detail and definition on concrete surfaces. Urethane is also much more durable than any other material. With its resistance to abrasion, chemicals, and excessive wear, a single liner withstands multiple uses.

How are Urethane Formliners Made and Used?

Polyurethane formliners are made of a high quality, two-component material that combines isocyanate and polyol, which forms a liquid rubber that is poured into a mold and over a master. The liquid flows into all voids and contours every line to pick up every minor detail, including the porous nature of rocks, creating a perfect replica. Urethane cures at room temperature and comes in a range of hardnesses to fit a variety of application needs.

Before casting concrete into the new mold, it’s recommended that an acceptable release agent be used on the face, edges, and ends before each cast. Do not over-apply, as this may create pooling in the mold that will cause surface voids or bug holes. These voids prevent the concrete from copying all the details from the urethane.

The formliners are generally placed inside formwork before the concrete is poured. They must be properly aligned and secured for the best results. Large liners are usually attached to plywood backing since they weigh more and are less flexible. Plywood allows for attachment points in order to pick up the liners with machinery for precise placement and increased size. Using larger liners this way also allows for a quicker set-up and application on larger projects.

Once the concrete hardens, the formliner is removed, and all the details are transferred onto the surface. Urethane’s elasticity simplifies the stripping process, allowing it to easily release from intricate details and undercuts in the concrete for damage-free demolding. These formliners can also be inverted to generate different, less predictable patterns on the concrete. When using urethane, it’s much easier to avoid noticeable seams in the design as well, especially if you’re using large panels of the material. When plastic is used, more effort goes into making larger forms, as an adhesive must be used to glue several pieces together.

Where Are They Used?

Polyurethane form liners see the most use in large projects and areas with a lot of square footage to cover. If you need long spans or a seamless appearance in the concrete, urethane is the best option capable of fulfilling these requirements. It is a cost effective choice for any project that requires a high number of reuses.

Urethane is the best material for producing high detail and relief for projects, especially when a certain level of realism is needed. There’s almost no limit to where urethane can be used, including tilt-up, cast-in-place, and precast applications. Other instances where urethane makes a great form lining material include:

  • Architectural facades. Add depth and character to flat, plain concrete surfaces on the exterior of buildings and give them a new identity.
  • Landscaping. Craft inviting outdoor spaces such as charming pathways with natural rock formations in retaining walls to connect with surrounding landscapes.
  • Interior design. Enhance plain walls and columns and turn them into a stunning focal point for indoor spaces such as hotels, residences, and shopping centers.
  • Beautify utilitarian structures such as bridges, tunnels, and public spaces with artistic, textured elements.

How to Take Care of Your Formliners

A urethane formliner’s reusability will depend on how it’s used, how it’s cared for, how detailed it is, and the job site conditions. Key steps to preserve the life and quality of the liners include:

  • A release agent should be applied before each use for easier demolding and to prolong the life of the liner. Cleaning the release agent off after use is also essential, as some release agents can be reactive and degrade the material over time.
  • A clean liner will last longer and produce excellent results each time. Proper cleaning after each use removes concrete dust and buildup, preventing debris from affecting the detail of subsequent pours. Clean with hot water, soap, and a natural bristle brush. Never use a wire brush or harsh chemicals that might damage the urethane.
  • Be careful and gently pry the formliner from the concrete in the stripping process. Peeling it back can create additional stress, reducing its usefulness over time.
  • The form should be removed within 24 hours after the concrete has cured, or stripping may be difficult. While urethane is durable, you want demolding to be easy to keep the detail intact.
  • Proper storage is also required to maintain its usability. Store it flat and in a clean, temperature-controlled environment. Do not let it sit face up in the sun for long durations of time. UV rays deteriorate urethane and may cause it to expand and fall apart.

VFI Polyurethane for Concrete Projects

VFI manufactures several lines of urethane products not just for use in form lining. The type of rubber you choose for your project will depend on your production process and the detail you require. Our 2100 series 55A-70A rubbers can produce advanced detail for highly aesthetic concrete pieces. Our 2100 series 70A-90A rubbers are also great for concrete projects but offer basic detail at lower pour thickness minimums. If you’re interested in these materials or softer rubbers for cast and manufactured stone applications, contact us today.

At VFI we offer solutions to all your project needs. With a talented onsite lab staff, we can customize our products to suit your application requirements. Contact us today to learn more about our custom solutions!