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3M provides the critical link for the fastest advertising on the road

3M Europe : 29 June, 2006  (New Product)
Dual Lock recloseable fasteners from global innovation company 3M are helping a new company to deliver a pioneering form of advertising on Britain's motorways and A-roads as well as in the hearts of cities and towns. Glasgow-based Spedian has developed a rapidly changeable system of reinforced vinyl advertising panels for rigid-sided articulated trailers and other vehicles.
The panels, which can be changed in less than one hour using equipment specially developed for the purpose, allow fleet owners and advertisers to vary their messages and target their audiences much more precisely and cost effectively than previously possible.

At the heart of the Spedian system is a framework of 3M Dual Lock recloseable fastener. The Dual Lock is permanently fastened to the truck sides in a pattern that precisely matches a similar grid of Dual Lock on the reverse side of the advertising panels. Spedian's special installation tool allows advertising banners to be unrolled along the vehicle side with millimetre accuracy.

'I had some experience working with 3M products in a previous role which involved high velocity wind tunnel testing for world record attempt projects. We ran the tunnel at speeds in excess of 140mph,' says Spedian technical director John Clark. 'The products we used performed as predicted so I knew that 3M's Dual Lock was likely to be the optimum solution when we were developing the Spedian system.'

To keep cost and installation time under control and ensure the best appearance of installed advertising panels it was important that Spedian selected a mounting system that could rely on the minimum possible area of fastening tape. 'Our first prototypes used a grid of Dual Lock, but it soon became clear that just fixing the perimeter of the panels was sufficient, with some additional reinforcement at the leading edge where the aerodynamic loads are highest,' says Clark.

While speed and simplicity of installation were key to the flexibility and cost advantages of the Spedian system, safety was also of vital importance and the system's makers undertook an extensive series of demanding tests during the development process.

'Back in 2002, we evaluated our prototypes at the MIRA test facility in Nuneaton,' explains Clark. 'Their 'Proving Ground' facility allowed us to asses the sort of punishment a truck fitted with the Spedian System could expect to receive during a lifetime of arduous use. We put trucks through bumpy, off-camber corners that really flex the body and frame, high speed drive-by and overtaking tests that put the panels under severe aerodynamic loads. We also assessed the possibility of damage by vandalism or impacts.

The Spedian system has been successfully piloted by some high profile clients including leading supermarket Sainsbury's, which adopted the advertising system as a key part of the launch of its new clothing range. To date, some of the Sainsbury's vehicles have covered over 200,000km with the Spedian system, with individual panels covering as many as 100,000km and going through more than 150 truck washes.

The 3M Dual Lock recloseable fastening system uses a network of tiny micro-replicated, polypropylene mushrooms bonded to 3M VHB acrylic foam tape, a high strength adhesive tape. The mushrooms interlock positively with each other to give a secure, precise snap-fit that can be removed and refastened hundreds of times.

Micro replication is a core 3M technology and a key enabler for hundreds of products in a diverse range of sectors. The ability to accurately reproduce fine three dimensional patterns on the surface of a film or sheet material was originally developed for the production of the fresnel lenses used in overhead projectors. It has since been used to make everything from more efficient cleaning cloths to longer lasting abrasives.

VHB foam tapes are a second 3M innovation that have revolutionised a wide range of application areas. Combining the long term holding power of high strength adhesives with the convenience and ease of application of a tape, VHB has been used to hold vehicles together and even to keep the skin panels of buildings in place.
Combined in Dual Lock, 3M's micro replication technology and VHB tape provide a joining solution so strong that a single square metre of Dual Lock can support the weight of a fully loaded articulated truck, yet can be simply peeled apart by hand.
Dual Lock is completely invisible in use and highly resistant to vibration and fatigue, characteristics that make it ideal for the demanding Spedian application. 'The Dual Lock system means our panels fit so neatly that people think they are an integral part of the truck,' says Clark. 'Using Dual Lock we've created the safest, best looking system on the market. It opens up enormous new opportunities for advertisers and fleet owners alike.'

Mike Killner, technical specialist in 3M UK's industrial adhesives and tapes division has been working with Spedian on the development of the system. 'The Spedian system is exactly the kind of joining problem that Dual Lock solves so well,' he says. 'Nothing else could offer the same speed of installation and removal along with a strong bond that can resist the rigours of the truck environment. It has been very satisfying to be able to help bring such an innovative system onto the market.'

For the future, Spedian is investigating the possibility of having the Dual Lock framework fitted to new trailers at the time of manufacture. 'One of the beauties of the Dual Lock System is that it is available in transparent form so that vehicles look good even if they are not carrying an advertising panel,' says Lawrence Craig, Spedian chief executive.

The company also has plans to extend the system to other types of vehicle. 'Recently we have been back to MIRA and, with the help of Mike Killner at 3M, we have been investigating new dimensions of the Spedian System which we hope to bring to production in the very near future. Watch this space!,' concludes Clark.
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