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Artificial turf technology – A visit to Morton Extrusionstechnik factory in the Odenwald
In the beautiful Odenwald forest area, Mr Jürgen Morton-Finger from the company Morton Extrusionstechnik GmbH and Mr Rolf Haas from FieldTurf invited architects and Playground@Landscape to a factory tour with specialist presentations and discussions on artificial turf technology.
As a German company, MET supports artificial turf "Made in Germany" – a concept that can be implemented primarily through a large number of automated production processes. Outside of Germany, such production processes are often implemented in several labour-intensive stages due to energy and labour costs that are far below European standards.
MET’s product range includes technical monofilaments for the packaging industry, concrete reinforcement and medical applications. In 1988, Morton-Finger established the company Motech which produces automation equipment for fibre systems. In 2000, the company Reimotec was also founded, which manufactures monofilament extrusion lines. The company Morton Extrusionstechnik was founded in 2008 based on these activities. In 2010, Motech and Reimotec were sold to the Reifenhäuser firm. Since 1988, Mr Morton-Finger has filed over 40 patents around the world in the field of monofilament production.
In 2010, the artificial grass manufacturer FieldTurf and MET announced the launch of a joint venture to develop and manufacture the most innovative fibre technology. FieldTurf is part of the Tarkett Group, a leading flooring manufacturer. Mr Haas represents FieldTurf in Germany and, being an active tennis player and manager of his own tennis facility, brings with him extensive know-how in sports flooring. The demand for artificial turf has increased in recent years especially in the BRIC countries (Brasil, Russia, India, China) not just for sports flooring, but also for playgrounds and landscaping – a promising market for the joint venture.
The specialist presentations deal primarily with the emergence, quality assurance and development of synthetic turf fibres. With this in mind, MET has a large modern production site, trained staff and continuous production facilities. MET is not only a production company, it also has its own development department, where constant new developments will cement its future. An important future market lies in the use of recycled materials; MET has therefore developed solutions to reuse fibres from old artificial turf sports fields (see 05/12 edition).
Since artificial turf was first used in 1966 in the Houston Astrodome, a lot has changed. Starting from this so-called first generation turf with its short and rough fibres, through to second generation turf made from short fibres and infilled with sand, which was developed in the late 70s for hockey terrains, artificial turf is now in its third generation. It now has longer fibres (about 40 mm) made of polyethylene, infilled with sand and rubber and designed for football. The launch of synthetic turf systems with infill can be dated back to 1994 when FieldTurf installed its first full-sized soccer field in the United States.
In the past 18 years, artificial turf has grown exponentially around the world and is now regarded as a genuine and safe alternative to natural grass; it has also made its way to the highest level of sport, with important matches in sports such as football, rugby, hockey, etc. being played on it every year.
Together with a polymer manufacturer, MET has developed a polymer specifically designed for use with artificial turf. The resulting fibres boast a superior durability, a soft feel and an increased ability to remain upright. To process this polymer, the MET extrusion lines for manufacturing fibres have been adapted to guarantee the highest possible quality thanks to optimal process technology. Quality is the top priority of MET. With this in mind, the UV stability of the fibres was tested with extensive outdoor simulations to be able to simulate the influence of sunlight (UV light) and incorporate the necessary protection mechanisms into the fibre. For example, tests were carried out that simulated ten years of outdoor exposure to the weather based on a testing method used in the automotive industry. Although these tests are very expensive (up to €70,000 for a series of tests), they avoid any unwanted surprises down the line (after 10-15 years of working in the sports area).
Upcoming innovations are already at the trial stage. MET has for example developed a method of manufacturing artificial turf fibres from used PET bottles. The first field experiment was already set up in 2011.
All that remains now is to keep an eager eye out for the latest MET development and look forward to the next innovations in the artificial turf industry.