The Rheology and Materials Characterisation Laboratory has collaborated with Unipod to improve quality standards in the building industry.
Concrete slabs made with waffle pods are widely used for construction in Australia. In this method, concrete is poured on or around a series of pods laid in a grid above the ground rather than on to foundations dug into the soil.
The use of waffle pods, which are increasingly made from recycled polystyrene, has been continuously expanding in Australian since mid-1980s and now constitutes a majority part of total slab floor construction.
This method of slab construction requires fewer earthworks than traditional concrete slabs and provides better protection against cracking or other defects that result from environmental effects on soil.
However, there is no current Australian standard for testing their structural integrity.
Defective or poor quality pods can cause construction and safety problems as described in this video from Unipod (YouTube), a leading Victorian manufacturer of waffle pods.
Professor Mike Xie, Dr Muthu Pannirselvam and Dr Shanqing Xu from the Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials at RMIT worked together with Peter Sheehan, Plant Manager at Unipod, to address this knowledge gap.
Together they developed a rigorous method of strength testing which is now used by Unipod as part of their quality assurance process.
“Unipod approached RMIT with an intent to develop a reliable impact test procedure for our product,“ Sheehan explained.
“We found that the skill, expertise and willingness to engage with industry was at a high level. “
“This collaboration worked so well that Unipod further engaged RMIT to use software simulation to design the ultimate waffle pod design.“
“The resulting report was extensive and has provided Unipod with key product design features to incorporate into a production mould.”
RMIT is working with Unipod to further develop the new pod design in a project funded by a Technology Voucher Program.