Non-slip materials for longer-lasting, moisture-resistant flooring
Accidents resulting from slipping in public and private spaces are a frequent problem which is made worse if the floor is wet or during the routine cleaning process. The industry specialising in flooring manufacture is tackling the challenge to develop non-slip products that are wear-resistant, easy to clean and less expensive to maintain. The IK4-TEKNIKER R&D centre along with another eleven organisations from European various countries including business associations, SMEs and research platforms are participating in the SlipSafe project. This project sets out to develop new formulations of materials and processes to design non-slip floors that are easy to fit and maintain, are long-lasting, and pleasing to the eye and whose properties are not compromised by an increase in moisture or atmospheric changes. Furthermore, the project leaders do not just want the technology not to limit the durability of the flooring: one of their goals is to double its useful service life as well. The correct functionality of the flooring that is being developed is mainly based on tribological studies (the science that studies friction and wear of materials) by simulating the contact that takes place between the floor surface and the sole of the pedestrian’s footwear. This is in fact the context of IK4-TEKNIKER’s participation. According to Beatriz Fernández, in charge of the project on behalf of IK4-TEKNIKER, “we in the Tribology Unit have proposed a new testing method to assess the non-slip properties of flooring and to predict its durability over time.” She added, “We will be capable of characterising the flooring by simulating different conditions with the potential to cause slipping, like for example, a wet floor, a floor on which oil has been accidently spilt or which has any other dirt like sand on it. The new testing protocol will be tried out by various European associations of companies in the sector and it will be submitted to the corresponding bodies so that the possibility of turning it into a new standard test can be explored.” The result of this research will be demonstrated in various real working scenarios with a high rate of pedestrian traffic, like in a hospital or a shop. Another of the difficulties that the project is seeking to solve is to ensure the hygienic condition of the flooring and its ease of maintenance, since conventional technological approaches to reduce slipping are based on making the surface rougher, a phenomenon that hampers cleaning and facilitates the presence of dirt. SlipSafe is taking place in a context in which new harmonised quality assurance methods are being adopted and which are calling for more innovative approaches to tackle the challenges being faced by the specialised industry like materials provision, installation, cladding technology, etc. The project, which is part of the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme and has funding to the tune of 2.7 million euros, kicked off in February 2014 and has a duration of three years, the time that the participating organisations in Spain, the U.K. Germany, Slovenia and Belgium have available to come up with a comprehensive solution.