A journey into the Mondo production plant to discover the making process of an indoor sport flooring
After the volleyball game, the net is removed and the horses and beams for the gymnastics class are carried into the gym. During the same week, the facility will host a students assembly and three sessions of yoga that are held on alternate days. This might be the common scene of a gym that is managed to optimize the time, but think about how many different stresses the floor of the gym undergoes: balls, different types of shoes, barefoot, but also the movement of equipment and so on. A truly multi-purpose gym needs a durable, versatile and long lasting surface. Basically, a Mondo branded rubber surface.
Salas Arguis is the Sports Flooring Product Manager of the Mondo Group. We meet her in the Alba plants, where, in addition to athletics tracks, the Piedmont company also produces rubber surfaces for indoor sports. She explains the importance of choosing the right surface for indoor sports activities. "Creating the flooring for a gym or an arena is not the same as an athletics track or a football pitch". Says Salas. "One kicks a ball around on a football pitch and one runs on a track. But quite often many different activities take place in a gym, and therefore they must all be carefully examined in order to choose a surface that can withstand the activities and offer the highest level of performance at all times".
The indoor flooring sector is very diverse. Mondo produces rubber surfaces along with wooden and vinyl flooring systems to cater to all customer needs. "The wooden systems are destined to specific uses, such as basketball, and must comply with the precise requirements of the federations. However, the choice of other synthetic materials can be made more than anything to obtain good results with a moderate expenditure and Mondo is able to satisfy any requirement. However, we have rubber in our DNA, we know how to create it, shape it, customize it, and we know this is the best choice for an indoor sports flooring that is not made of wood. Rubber is the only material capable of ensuring the biomechanical and durability characteristics that a high level facility requires. It is the only material that allows to create a truly durable and versatile surface".
If wood is often a specific option and not questionable, the choice between rubber and other resilient materials instead is always the result of reasoning that needs to be made with great care. "There is a fundamental difference between rubber and other synthetic materials - says Salas. – The others offer an optimum quality-price ratio, but only rubber is able to ensure long life and a resistance that after 10 years maintains the same biomechanical and elastic response characteristics of the very first day. Most of the other materials are negatively affected by the passage of time, they harden and lose their biomechanical characteristics such as the ability to absorb energy. Rubber does not. This is due to the intrinsic qualities of the material and also to our processing knowledge, which allow us to improve and enhance its innate characteristics of resistance to wear and tear, ageing and the preservation of its elasticity". All of these characteristics are imprinted into the rubber within the Mondo factories of Gallo d'Alba.
The indoor sports flooring production line in the Gallo d'Alba plants, runs parallel to the one for athletics tracks. The selected raw materials follow the same process that we have described in these pages, but the "formulas" and the processing of the product, developed by Mondo engineers, are different because the use of the flooring is different. "While the semi-finished product of a track is vulcanized in a 30 meter long oven", says Danilo Galliano, Mondo's lab technician, "that of an indoor surface such as Mondoflex uses a machine called a Rotocure, a continuous press that crushes the calendared compound for several minutes at a high temperature, vulcanizing it and giving the finished product its well known characteristics and unique qualities".
"An indoor rubber surface is subjected to numerous tests, different than those for an athletics track", says Galliano, as he takes us to visit the laboratory.
"A track is tested with a machine that controls the resistance to wear and tear by simulating the spiked shoes of an athlete, while an indoor surface is tested with tools and methodologies that measure the resistance to residual indentation and abrasion, simulating the wear produced by different shoes and the weight of sports equipment used in arenas such as baskets or removable stands". However, the tests that the laboratory carries out on batches of surfaces produced, are not only confined to the control of durability: the European standard that determines which surfaces can be classified as sports flooring, foresee the implementation of biomechanical tests to ensure the players comfort and safety during the sports activities.
"We have a specific tool in our laboratory to verify the compliance of the flooring with international standards: we test the shock absorption, vertical deformation and energy return generated. These are key parameters to measure and understand the softness, elasticity and comfort that the athlete may feel during a match or training session".
Having tested the performance, the tests then move on to safety: "We verify the slip-proof resistance values by swinging a rubber skid on the surface. This is a very important factor in indoor sports: we have to find the correct balance that allows a volleyball player to slide correctly when diving to retrieve the ball and a handball player to have his foot firmly on the ground while changing direction. Only in this way can we ensure a product which meets the customer's full requirements".
Mondo was one of the first companies to bring rubber to indoor sports facilities and is still the undisputed leader in the industry. Durability is not the only advantage that this material offers. "Due to its physical characteristic, PVC for example, requires joining curbs when laid that have to bind one strip to another - says Salas. – Although these joints can be made very well, they are always visible to the eye and even the athlete's foot could "notice" them over time. It's different when laying a rubber surface. In this case the joints are virtually invisible and the surface is perfectly even". Some areas show signs of wear more than others over time, under the basket for example. "We know this very well and this is why we recommend using rubber flooring if you want to maintain a surface that resists time and abrasion".
Combining their resilient surfaces with the wooden substrate, Mondo is able to offer a wide range of Combined Elastic systems. As in the case of Elastiflex, these are flooring systems with a double elastic response: the local one of the rubber surface (point-elastic) and the one distributed over the entire area of the substrate (area-elastic).
These double elastic response systems offer the ultimate in terms of performance, safety and mechanical strength and ensure a high level of consistency and performance over the entire surface.
Thanks to specific studies, Mondo has further optimized the characteristics of these systems by adding special patented truncated cone shaped supports to their Mondoelastic solutions, which have the ability to absorb more violent shocks and returning to their original position thanks to an internal air pocket.
"Our strong point - continued Salas Arguis - is the global vision that we have of sport and of all the needs related to it. Mondo's Indoor division also produces sports equipment: telescopic stands, baskets. We are therefore able to anticipate and solve any problems that may arise during the use or installation of the equipment. Our technical department works alongside the architect to ensure the best results and provide all of our experience. We can put ourselves in the shoes of the athlete, as well as the designer or the person in charge of the facility's maintenance".
Leaving the plant in Gallo d'Alba, it is clear why rubber flooring is the best solution for an indoor facility that wants to be versatile and functional, and the best investment over time thanks to the formidable strength of this material.
In addition to the quality of their materials, Mondo provides customers with great technical expertise in every phase of the project, from concept to design, up to the installation and daily maintenance of the flooring. "This is our added value and that is why our work is valued all over the world".