The concrete pouring process requires certain steps to ensure the concrete will not lose form while it sets. Aluminum formwork is one type of material used to help the concrete hold shape until it is solid and can hold shape on its own. The term "formwork" refers to panels that can be arranged in such a way that a mold is formed; "falsework" refers to poles, connectors, and other hardware that hold the forms together. Aluminum formwork is made from a lightweight metal that is easy to transport, set up, tear down, and clean.
Other types of formwork exist as well; steel and plywood are the most commonly used types of forms. Aluminum formwork is advantageous, however, because it is durable but lightweight and easy to set up. Plywood can, however, be susceptible to water damage and may also warp; steel can be heavy, difficult to position, and difficult to store and transport. Aluminum formwork avoids these pitfalls, though it has drawbacks of its own. Aluminum is a fairly rigid, brittle metal that is prone to cracking when bent. Steel is more resistant to such types of damage, but tends to be more expensive than steel, however.
To ensure structural rigidity, the aluminum formwork will be constructed in pieces. Modular panels can be connected to each other to create various concrete shapes. The panels need to be secured together to prevent concrete from running between them; this is done using falsework. In some cases, the aluminum formwork may be used in conjunction with other types of formwork materials, most notably certain types of plywood that are resistant to water damage. Sometimes steel components are used in conjunction with the aluminum forms for added durability and stability. Jacks are usually made of steel as well, because these units will take on a significant amount of strain during use.
Like other types of formwork, aluminum formwork can be purchased or rented. It is possible to rent forms for small to medium projects; if the user will be doing concrete projects frequently, it is best to buy forms that can be reused. Aluminum is a good choice because it will generally be less expensive than other types of formwork, is easily stored and transported, and can be easily cleaned between uses to ensure the panels can be used for future projects. The thickness of the aluminum will generally dictate which projects the forms will be most appropriate for.