Polytorx, LLC, d.b.a. Helix Steel, is leading the structural concrete reinforcement field with an innovative product. Helix Steel’s Twisted Steel Micro Rebar (TSMR) is a revolutionary concrete reinforcement technology.
Helix Micro-Rebar is a new type of structural concrete reinforcement. Consisting of zinc-coated steel wire measuring 25 mm long, Helix is mixed directly into concrete, creating a three-dimensional reinforcement. Named for their patented twisted shape, the steel fibers provide greater strength and stability than traditional steel concrete reinforcements or other steel fiber products. Helix is the first product of its kind approved for use as primary steel reinforcement. With code approval for use in 99 countries around the world, the product is gaining worldwide recognition as the faster, safer and more cost-effective way to reinforce concrete.
“Helix is the only product in existence that can do what it does, replacing primary structural reinforcements in concrete,” says Wes Dees, Director, Eastern Region for Helix Steel. Helix’s primary applications include slabs on ground, footings, and foundations; in many of these cases, all of the conventional reinforcing steel can be removed and replaced with Helix. In walls, Helix can replace up to 80 percent of conventional reinforcements, depending on the type of application. ICF walls reinforced with Helix are also quite common.
Initially developed through a research project of the University of Michigan in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TSMR was created for use in blast-resistant design. It was quickly realized that at a lower dosage, TSMR could replace primary reinforcing steel. After years of exploration and testing, Helix Steel President and Chief Technology Officer Luke Pinkerton brought the technology to market in 2003. Helix Steel initially experienced slow, steady growth as the product gained traction with engineers and contractors.
In 2013 the product received Uniform Evaluation Service Report #6279 certifying its acceptability under building codes. The report marked a turning point for the product, allowing the product to be approved by code in 99 countries around the world. Helix Micro-Rebar is the only product of its kind to receive this approval. Since then, the company has experienced rapid growth.
Manufactured in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Helix Micro-Rebar offers products that can meet both the American Iron and Steel requirements and the Buy America Act, making it suitable for use in military, infrastructure, and other publicly funded projects to fully replace primary reinforcement.
Strength and durability
Helix Micro-Rebar offers four times the tensile strength of rebar as well as increased durability, ductility, and shear strength. “There are other products in the market that are fiber and that [Helix Micro-Rebar] often gets compared to; however, these products typically have a lower tensile strength and do not have the capacity to do what Helix does,” Dees states. Because of the product’s unique shape and three-dimensional formation, concrete reinforced with Helix begins resisting cracking at the micro level.
“Concrete reinforcement like rebar and mesh sits dormant in place and does nothing until the concrete cracks; it’s when the concrete cracks that the conventional reinforcing steel engages and its tensile strength comes into play,” Dees explains. “Helix works in the pre-crack mode at the micro level. Because Helix is a three-dimensional reinforcement material, any type of crack energy that’s coming into a piece of concrete is immediately engaged by these individual pieces of steel. Because it’s everywhere, it dissipates crack energy very quickly and helps to prevent and control cracking.”
Incorrectly placed concrete reinforcements can compromise the strength and stability of the concrete. Helix eliminates the challenge of correctly placing reinforcements, further streamlining the construction process. “In many conventional reinforced concrete applications, the reinforcement is not exactly where it’s supposed to be, whereas Helix is always in the right place, because it’s everywhere,” Dees explains.
Replacing conventional concrete reinforcements with Helix Micro-Rebar results in substantial savings in project time. Helix is mixed into concrete at the job site or ready-mix plant in a matter of minutes, whereas rebar and mesh reinforcements take hours to assemble. “With Helix, a general contractor or concrete contractor can pick up anything from days, to weeks, to months in the project schedule,” Dees notes. “We estimate that for every 10,000 square feet of steel we can replace, we can pick up about a day in the schedule.” In a large-scale concrete construction project, the cumulative time savings can be tremendous.
Helix eliminates most of the labor and equipment related to measuring, cutting, placing, and tying rebar, making it a more cost-effective option. Concrete can be poured directly without pumping and finished using conventional finishing techniques. Many contractors report saving up to 20 percent on the cost of concrete projects. Furthermore, the reduction in labor and equipment greatly reduces the potential safety hazards at the job site.
For energy efficient construction projects, Helix is ideal. Because its weight and volume are so much lower than that of rebar, Helix is far more efficient to produce and transport. “You get significant reduction in carbon footprint, because you’re eliminating 75 percent of the trucks that would have been on the road to bring the steel, and you’re eliminating 75 percent of the energy that would have been expended to make the steel,” Dees explains. These energy savings translate to valuable LEED certification credits as well a reduced environmental impact.
Contractors choose Helix
With so many benefits over traditional reinforcing steel, it’s no wonder Helix Micro-Rebar is rapidly gaining popularity. Helix has been used in projects ranging from individual homes, to commercial construction, to heavy industrial projects and infrastructure. It has been used for a number of high profile projects, including the foundation of Seattle’s Pier 57 Ferris Wheel. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority recently selected Helix for use in the East Side Access Tunnel, which extends from Long Island to Grand Central Station and is the largest public transit project operating today. MTA’s engineers have approved Helix as the primary reinforcing steel for the final tunnel lining. As well, Helix is also used in military projects where increased durability is needed, as well as in mining operations and concrete paving.
In the residential sector, Helix has been used to provide greater strength and durability, especially in areas prone to severe weather. More than 8,000 homes and other facilities in The Villages senior living community in central Florida have been built with Helix. Concrete reinforced with the product can withstand potential damage from strong tornadoes and hurricanes, keeping residents safe in the event of a natural disaster.
Designing with Helix
Helix Steel provides engineers with a comprehensive, peer-reviewed design method that is supported by independent testing certified by ER-0279 and proven by years of experience. Designing with Helix Micro-Rebar is straightforward, as it is accomplished with the same area of steel calculation as conventional rebar.
The company prides itself on offering exceptional design service and support. Helix’s team of in-house engineers is available to meet all of their customers’ design needs. The service is offered at no charge. When needed, Helix can also provide a design stamped by a professional engineer (PE) in any state. The company also offers an online design training module, as well as dosage and concrete volume calculators.
Looking to the future, Helix Steel hopes that its product will replace rebar and mesh as the standard for concrete reinforcement. Challenging the industry’s status quo is not an easy task, but it’s one that Helix takes on enthusiastically as the team strives to educate the market about their product. “We’ll continue to gain market share just because of the quality of the product and what it does,” Dees states; he is confident that contractors and engineers will embrace the product as they learn about its many benefits.
To this end, the company is committed to providing ongoing education about its product and design method to contractors, engineers, and student groups. “It’s a constant education process, from individual engineers all the way up to [Departments of Transportation].”
With an innovative product, a proven design method, and a commitment to outstanding customer service, Helix Steel is leading the market and building the future of concrete reinforcement.