Innovative floor panels

Clean feet – even after the festival

Special new underlay panels will make life easier for open-air enthusiasts. In collaboration with Empa, Supramat-Swiss GmbH has developed a product that protects the ground and prevents mud from forming. Thanks to their construction, the panels are easy to transport and can be laid over large areas with minimal effort.  Moreover, Empa and its industry partner have also optimised underlay panels that prevent heavy equipment from sinking in mud and form temporary roads for sites that are difficult to access.  For example, they make it easy to recover aeroplanes that have come off the runway..

Image Source: :

It can really dampen the excitement for any open-air event: the prospect of bad weather, and knowing that the entire site will quickly sink in a mire of brown, smelly sludge. But muddy festivals, like the ones this summer, could soon be a thing of the past. In collaboration with Supramat-Swiss GmbH, Empa has developed light floor panels made from a polymer mixed with fibreglass, which can be laid over large areas. "They are lighter and thinner, but have a larger surface area, than the hexagonal panels laid in a honeycomb pattern that are currently used at large events," says Christian Affolter, researcher in the Empa "Mechanical Systems Engineering" department. The rectangular panels are just ten millimetres thick, but their surface area is nearly one square metre, making transport and laying easier – now it is possible to cover large areas with minimal effort. Their innovation lies not only in the use of a special, highly robust yet light composite, but also in their connection concept. When laid, conventional honeycomb panels are connected using a kind of hook system. In contrast, construction teams connect the "Scobavent®" panels, developed at Empa, using special brackets at their edges. The result is a perfect "panel carpet", which allows virtually no mud to seep through. "Scobavent" is currently being tested at various events by a large Swiss festivals service company.

Size: 268 KB
  Christian Affolter with a "Scobavent" panel for festivals. Facilities that were used for testing the product can be seen in the background. Image source: Empa

The idea of using layable panels to keep mud away from festival-goers' feet is not new. Richard Steger from Supramat-Swiss GmbH approached Empa with the vision of developing a product that would revolutionise the market with its simplicity and reusability. The result was a project supported by the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI): Empa developed and tested the panels, and Supramat-Swiss GmbH provided the necessary equipment and production processes, as well as its expertise, and planned the market launch.  "The collaboration worked very well. Thanks to our cooperation with Empa, the project made rapid progress," says Richard Steger.

Size: 195 KB

The "Scobavent" panels being used at a festival. They completely cover the floor and prevent mud from forming. Image source: Supramat Swiss, GmbH


Panels for recovering aeroplanes, or for temporary roads to sites that are difficult to access
However, the research work was not limited to the "Scobavent" panels for large events. It also delivered a really heavy-duty product: a second panel type from Supramat-Swiss GmbH, called "Scobamat", which was also developed in collaboration with Empa. It can be used wherever heavy equipment might damage or even sink into soft ground. Laid as a pathway, the panels can form a secure temporary road for large vehicles to reach sites that are difficult to access.  The panels withstood tests with diggers, fire vehicles and a 60-tonne crane without any problems.

Size: 231 KB
  Computer simulations helped find and eliminate the weak points in the "Scobamat" panels during the development phase. Image source: Empa

"The panels," reports Steger, "are already being used by airport operators all over the world. Aeroplanes up to A380 models that have come off the runway can be quickly recovered, even on unsurfaced ground, using these panels." Other possible customers for the panels are construction companies and the military.

Size: 187 KB
  Left part of image: 60 tonnes bear down on the "Scobamat" panels – the ground be-neath is undamaged. Image source: Supramat Swiss, GmbH
Right part of image: In a test with the fire service at Zürich airport, the "Scobamat" panels guided the vehicle safely over the soft ground. Image source: Supramat Swiss, GmbH

The construction of the "big red sisters" is fundamentally different from that of the black festival panels. "Unlike 'Scobavent' panels, 'Scobamat' panels are not compressed from a single raw mass, but are structured using a layer system," explains Affolter. Fibreglass webbing is laminated with an epoxy resin. A second layer is then applied, in which the fibreglass is laid transversely over the previous layer and also impregnated with the resin, which gives the composite its strength.  Finally, several layers executed in this way form a robust laminate panel of two by four metres, which is flexible in all directions and can form an even path across soft ground to a construction site. The red "Scobamat" panels are capable of bearing vehicles with a weight distribution of up to 25 tonnes per wheel. So, for example, it is no longer necessary to go through the tedious process of laying a gravel path to the construction site before construction can begin.  The individual road panels made from resin and glass are anchored in the ground using plastic pegs or ground nails, so that they cannot slip out of place under the vehicles.

Text: Martin Rechsteiner, Empa
Download Images (Flickr)

Further Information

Editor / Media contact