“In our experience, strength is the most important quality required from trailer floor panels. UPM Plywood is the industry leader in R&D and our expertise in plywood strength properties as well as our capability to test them are among the very best in the world. We are able to simulate the customer’s end-use situations in our laboratory and develop the right solution for the application in close cooperation with the customer,” says Harri Nieminen, Product Manager at UPM Plywood.
Laboratory tests supported by computer simulations
When it comes to testing trailer floor panels, the wheel load test and the rolling test are the two most important ones. Both are based on standards but have been adapted by UPM Plywood to provide the most accurate, relevant, and reliable information needed for building strong and durable trailer floors.
Originally developed for testing cargo containers, the wheel load test simulates the weight load produced by a forklift wheel. “It is an excellent test that allows us to simulate extremely versatile trailer structures and specifications, including the spacing between floor support frames, and find out what type of plywood structures are the best solution for the customer’s need,” Nieminen explains.
Before the actual tests, simulations are often run on the computer first. Over the years, UPM Plywood has accumulated extensive test data that can be used to simulate different types of trailer structures.
“For instance, we can test how a trailer frame behaves when plywood panels are attached to it in certain ways. These simulations are an excellent addition to laboratory tests and provide additional value for the customer,” Nieminen notes.
Thorough testing leaves no room for guessing
The rolling test is also based on a standard now adopted by most trailer floor manufacturers. The test measures the durability of a panel’s surface under a rolling heavy-duty industrial wheel typically used, for example, in a pump truck. However, while the standard specifies that the wheel load should be from 100 to 500kg, it allows conducting the test using a wheel made of either rubber, plastic, or steel.
“In our tests, we always use a steel wheel and a load of 300kg. This ensures that the test results are reliable and leave no room for guessing as to whether the plywood panel will be durable in actual use,” Nieminen says.
Besides these special tests, UPM Plywood’s WISA plywood flooring panels undergo the same standard quality control as all the company’s other products, including the glue-line shear strength test and the three-point bending test.
Testing supports product development
At UPM Plywood, testing is done to meet both regulatory, end use and customer requirements. It is also a crucial part of product development right from the start. “Some of the most important megatrends currently include urbanisation and the need for more sustainable transport and logistics solutions. UPM Plywood is constantly developing new products and features to meet the customers’ needs, and we make sure our testing know-how and capability are always up to date to support this,” Nieminen says.
UPM Plywood’s new products or improvements to the existing offering always spring from a need in the industry. Trailer producers are involved in the testing process as early as possible to make sure that all WISA plywood products are fit for purpose.
“The voice of the customer is vital in the product development process, as we need to understand the requirements, the problems customers are facing and how they are using the products. Testing is a built-in function in product development because we need to verify that our products will comply with all the requirements and standards,” explains Sami Uuksulainen, Director, Product Management & Development at UPM Plywood.
Often, trailer manufacturers are involved already at the concept stage, and before a WISA product is launched, it has been through a long customer pilot testing period.
Senior Manager Sirkku Salmikuukka highlights the importance of in-house testing to UPM Plywood’s many long-term customers.
“We can do designing of plywood products to get optimised strength properties that fit the customers’ chassis design. The customers value the extensive cooperation and our expertise to help them understand the possibilities of plywood. This expertise and support also extend to the service life of trailer floors. We can provide support in the field if needed,” says Salmikuukka, who is responsible for the vehicle flooring end use at UPM Plywood.
“When we say that we engineer to accelerate your success, this is what we mean.”
Text: Janne Suokas and Sara Steensig