Many of the most innovative products in the concrete industry were developed by contractors. But product development, and especially testing, can be very expensive. Here's a story of a contractor who had a great idea and found a way to get the testing done that didn't drain his meager resources.
Over the past three years, Steve Bruno has spent “all the time and resources I could afford” to develop his Kwicker-Kicker retractable/extendable form alignment brace. This brace is used to hold formwork in position prior to pouring and to hold the form in place when the concrete weight bears against it. The brace has an outer tube and an inner tube that use turnbuckles and special cotter pins to allow quick, secure, and precise adjustment. Kwicker-Kickers can be attached to formwork in advance at the yard, but remain inside the framing so they aren't in the way during stacking and are ready to go when the form is in place. They are, according to Bruno, easy to use and reduce labor costs because forms are braced so quickly. They also eliminate custom cutting of wood braces.
But since a brace failure during construction could lead to potential injuries, Bruno knew that before he started full-scale marketing he would need to have load testing done to prove the brace's capacity.
Engineering firm proposals came back at $38,000 to $40,000, or more. “I realized there's gotta be a better—cheaper—way,” says Bruno. So he approached the civil engineering program at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif., to see if they would take on his testing as a student project—they said yes. Cal Poly's program, known as Sponsor a Lab, although not free, is cheaper considerably than Bruno's previous estimates. “The Sponsor a Lab program is fantastic,” says Bruno. “The faculty, the facility, and the students are amazing. Being able to help students is a plus and the opportunity to save financially is the icing on the cake.”
The research at Cal Poly was conducted under the oversight of Dr. Charles Chadwell and with the aid of an undergraduate researcher, Levi Gatsos. They set out to determine the safe operating range of the Kwicker-Kicker for bracing cast-in-place concrete walls. Using the allowable values for load, stiffness, and deflection for the brace, safe spacing under given loading conditions was determined. They considered a variety of load conditions to determine an acceptable shoring design for a given application. The Cal Poly team developed extensive bracing tables showing the maximum spacing of the braces for angled loading, for wind load, for combined wind and concrete bearing load, and under horizontal concrete bearing load.
Bruno also has conducted extensive field work with the braces. “Over 18 months, the largest pours we used them on were 40 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 16 feet tall, poured at 4 feet an hour,” he says. “If they are used on a job with large repetitive pours, they will be making you money right away.” His customers seem to agree. “I have been using them for over a year and have realized a definite savings in time and materials in all our bracing and aligning applications,” says Art Aguilar, carpenter foreman with San-Mar Concrete Formwork, Anaheim, Calif. “I recommend Kwicker-Kickers, unless, of course, you are a competing interest!”