With the European Soccer Championship just recently over, young soccer fans more than ever dream of scoring dramatic goals and becoming national favorites, just like Germany’s Podolski, Schweinsteiger and Ballack. The sporting event of the year, together with the World Soccer Championship back in 2006, has fired the ambition of many young fans to one day play as professionals themselves on the field. But as everyone knows, only practice makes perfect.
To provide junior soccer players all over Germany with ideal conditions for the necessary training, the German Football Association (DFB) is investing EUR 25 million in the construction of 1,000 miniature playing fields. To ensure the safety of the players and reduce noise for neighbors, the fencing around the fields is made of metal-faced sandwich panels incorporating a polyurethane foam system from Bayer MaterialScience. In terms of funding, the project is the largest in the DFB's more than 100-year history. Most of the playing fields are to be completed by the end of the year. The spokesman for the project is former international Andreas Brehme, who scored the winning goal for Germany in the final of the 1990 World Championship.
In accordance with DFB specifications, each field encompasses an area of 13 by 20 meters, plus a perimeter pathway and access areas. The players perform on new-generation artificial turf, with granulated rubber infill and a flexible base layer. The fencing around the field comprises panels with integrated goals, on which high demands are imposed. They must withstand impacts with players. Moreover, to suit the needs of neighbors who are less enthusiastic about soccer, the material must also function as a sound-absorber. Metal-faced sandwich panels have proven to be the material of choice. Made of steel facings and a polyurethane rigid foam core, they are manufactured for this application by Fischer Profil GmbH of Netphen-Deuz, Germany, a leading European manufacturer of polyurethane-based structural components for roofs and walls in commercial buildings. The entire order amounts to a total surface area of 100,000 square meters. The systems for the polyurethane rigid foam core are supplied by BaySystems®, the global partner for system solutions from Bayer MaterialScience.
"Our foam system combines reliable processing with outstanding technical properties in the end product. The DFB project depends not only on the high mechanical strength of the foam, which is ensured in part by long-term bonding between the foam and the steel, but also on the sound-absorbing effect of the system," explains Ingo Kellerhof, applications specialist for metal-faced composites at BaySystems.
Self-supporting polyurethane/metal sandwich panels were originally developed for insulating large facades and roofs in industrial buildings.
They have been put to effective use in many segments of the building industry for more than four decades now. Surface-treated steel or aluminum sheets serve as the visible facings, and these can be profiled to increase their flexural strength and load-bearing capacity. When used as a facade, the profiled facings simultaneously function as design elements and, together with a colored surface treatment, give designers great creative freedom. The sandwich panels are used in industrial and commercial construction, as well as in cold stores, warehouses, exhibition halls, sports halls, office buildings and transportation buildings (e.g.
Dr. Rolf Roers, head of Composite Panels Application Technology at BaySystems, considers the soccer project to be an entirely new arena for metal sandwich composites: "This is just another example of the almost unlimited potential for developing new polyurethane applications made possible by the material's versatility. Good products and successful partnerships in the market are decisive in this context, and both are provided by BaySystems®, the global brand name for our polyurethane systems business."
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