The manufacturing process of Flotex FR is a unique method, involving the combining of electrostatically flocked nylon pile with a water impermeable substrate. This technical process was created in order to achieve the control and quality consistency over the width and length of the process to maintain a ten year wear guarantee in the contract market. To explain the how Flotex FR is produced, we spoke to Process Controller, Andy Ross. Andy is based at our Ripley site in the UK and has worked at Forbo FlooringForbo Flooring for 39 years.
There are four main areas in the Flotex FR production process, the first step being Preparation.
- PVC polymer blended and mixed with other raw materials to make a viscous plastisol which can be pumped and coated onto a substrate. All adhesives that we use contain an antimicrobial agent for anti-bactericide in end product use.
- We use high quality Nylon 6.6 polyamide for the pile surface. This gives Flotex FR excellent tensile strength, high melting point and dye colouration uptake.
- The nylon arrives in boxes of two, each containing approximately 140,000 filaments – equalling 2.5km in length.
- These two lengths are then grouped together from up to 40 boxes and compressed together, enabling a guillotine to shear the flock pile into lengths of 2.05mm.
In a year’s production of Flotex, it’s calculated that we cut 216 trillion fibres – that’s enough nylon to go from Earth to the sun two and a half times over.
- Once the fibres are cut they are pressured with dyes that chemically lock into the Nylon to give a range of colours, which become the base shade of Flotex FR
- This stage involves bringing together the PVC plastisols and the coloured fibres and then creating a base sheet.
- A glass scrim is used for the backing, which accepts the PVC coating and gives the product dimensional stability. The glass scrim, together with an impregnated layer of glass achieves great tensile and tear strength properties.
- The product then receives the adhesive layer coating ready to accept the flocked pile fibres. This part of the process is the electrostatic flocking stage and is carried out in an air conditioned environment, controlling both temperature and humidity.
- High voltages accelerate the individual fibres vertically into the adhesive coated substrate, building up the density of the saturated fibre pile surface of Flotex FR to around 60 – 80 million fibres per square metre. The density of high quality Nylon 6.6 fibres all standing on end is what gives Flotex its highly acclaimed wear characteristics. In addition, the simple nature of the construction profile allows any dirt to be easily removed.
- To give the product an anti-static property, carbon coated fibres are flocked into the product to dissipate any electrical charge that is created by walking on Nylon pile.
- It is then passed through an oven at up to 200°C to set the adhesive, anchor the pile and expand the base slightly into a closed sell form.
- The base material can either be rotary screen printed, or digitally printed. Rotary printing takes place at Ripley in the UK, whilst digital printing is done at Château-Renault, France. Both processes consist of pre washing, printing, steaming and drying.
All of the above processes are controlled to achieve optimum performance so that we can ensure that Flotex FR is produced to consistently high quality standards. For many years, the plant has operated safety, quality and environmental management systems to ISO levels.
Written by Andy Ross – Process Controller & Chloe Taylor, Marketing – International Key Accounts