Concrete columns can be found in a wide range of applications and industries. They can be found as bases of parking lot lamps, deck posts, street signals, and street lights. In addition, columns can be used as foundational support in warehouses and basements, roof support around buildings, or for more aesthetic, decorative purposes. Traditionally, columns are formed using steel, fiberglass, and a reinforced shaping structure. However, these materials are rigid, heavy, and sensitive. Sonotube®, a registered trademark of Sonoco, is a much more efficient alternative to these traditional column forming methods. Sonotubes® are heavy-duty, high-quality cardboard structures that serve as a mold for concrete to be poured in in order to form a smooth-sided column. Sonotubes® can be made up to 18 feet in length and between 8 to 56 inches in diameter. The versatility of Sonotubes® enable manufacturers to simplify construction of columns. However, the greater the length of the column, the more likely extra machinery may be needed to assist in the process.
In order to form a column that is flawless in appearance and structurally sound, the tubes must have a smooth interior and be able to endure the pressure exerted by the concrete. Sonotube® tubing is a much more cost-effective material, because of its strength in cylinder form. These tubes are notably strong in a cylindrical configuration, and owe their strength to their spiral-wound fiber layers and adhesive bonding. Because of their cost efficiency, vibration and sound wave absorption, and exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, Sonotubes® have been used to build sound cabinets, and are also usd by sound hobbyists and sound technicians to improve acoustics in places such as sanctuaries and performance halls. Sonotubes® have recently become a popular material for children’s toys and creative play, as opposed to solely being used for packaging. Cardboard has been used to make tubes and blocks for children to build forts, tunnels, and a variety of other structures.
Sonotubes® have played a role in the construction of new and innovative column designs. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has been developing a new type of column design that will be able to withstand natural or artificial disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme temperatures, fires, or explosions. This new column design includes a fiber-reinforced polymer within its structure. This polymer is exceptionally durable and resistant to fires, and is thus used extensively in the oil and gas industry. Aside from its differences in materials from standard concrete columns, the method of constructing these new columns are fundamentally the same—the concrete and additional materials are poured into the Sonotube® mold, and the mold is removed once the concrete hardens and dries.
When steel or fiberglass is used to construct a column, the equipment used to mold them puts a limit as to how many columns can be poured at a time. However, Sonotubes® are disposable after one use, and do not require additional exterior support like steel or fiberglass tubes do. As a result, Sonotubes® enable manufacturers to construct more columns at once and cut down significantly on construction time. In addition to their disposability, Sonotubes® are recyclable and made from biodegradable paper Once the concrete has solidified in the paper tube, the tube’s outer layer can be safely disposed of. Depending on the structure of the column, the paper tube mold cavity can be removed piece by piece or all at once. Cardboard is one of the world’s most easily recyclable materials. Once the cardboard is disposed of, it can efficiently be recycled into additional tubes or other paper products. If cardboard is sent to a landfill instead, it can not only quickly decompose, but it can benefit the ground it breaks down in. Sonotubes® are usually made from products that have been partially or completely recycled.
For decades, Sonotubes® have enabled manufacturers to manufacture concrete columns and other supportive structures on-site. It is much more inexpensive for a company to purchase the materials and the cardboard tubes and mix the columns than it would be for the company to purchase the columns pre-fabricated. Transportation expenses would skyrocket as a result. In addition to travel expenses, this method would also be more detrimental to the environment. It would require extra energy for other manufacturing companies to produce these columns, and their transportation would lead to a higher amount of fuel consumption and the emissions of toxins into the air. Before Sonotubes®, the construction of these structures was a complicated and expensive process, and most manufacturers today have made the conversion to using Sonotubes® exclusively.
Sonotubes – Ace Paper Tube Corporation