Nothing stays the same, everything is always on the move, shifting, evolving. Over our 23yr history, Flashed has always strived to be at the forefront, or even ahead, of that leading edge.
Demands on products, methods of application, a growing climbing community: these are always changing and our commitment is to keep on top so you can trust any product that has our name on it. Both today and into the future.
For any product, it simply has to work, and work well. Along with intelligent design and proper field testing the dependability of a product is based on the materials used. For this reason we spend an inordinate amount of time researching materials to get this right. This approach permeates all of our products and we trust you’ll recognize the difference.
The majority of climbing padding consists of polyethylene (PE) and polyurethane (PU) foams. PE foam is the harder closed-cell product used as a force dispersion layer (like gymnastic carpet bond) while PU foam is the open cell soft and squishy material used in bouldering pads and under route flooring. Although much data is available from the bedding and mattress industry, climbing is more of a dynamic impact sport and so specialized testing climbing equipment is necessary.
Going back to 2004, bouldering pads were described as having the best dual-density foam on the market. There was no way to quantify these claims until Flashed introduced the children’s playground-inspired Drop Tester. Built on the architecture and methodology of ASTM 1292, we started putting a numerical value to critical fall height. Our focus was not on the padding, but rather on the climber.
Now in 2019, Flashed has since upgraded to the official Triax 2015 testing equipment and is able to perform head impact drops at nearly any gym height. As gym user visits increase and more people are attracted to our sport, we want to ensure the information and tools are available to make informed choices.
Once we can understand what impact forces are experienced by the climber using the Accelerometer, the next natural question is durability. Performance and Durability go hand in hand and the input factors are related. Durability is affected by two main characteristics: density, and compression. The more dense (and heavy) the foam is, the longer it will last. Additionally, the more stiff it is, the longer it takes to break down. Certainly the stiffness also affects the feeling of impact on the climber.
To understand the specifics of each foam type we needed to evaluate how the impact changes over time with respect to both density and compression. The Dynamic Fatigue Tester (DFT), was developed to raise the ASTM E missile up to a set height required to compress the foam 75% (the max compression value before support is compromised and ‘bottoming out’ is experienced). An internal Accelerometer measures the drop impact in g-force and is then graphed over 1000 drops to give us a trendline. By doing this with various densities and compressions of PU foam we can better understand and compare padding.
The Multiple Overhead Fall Operator (MOFO) looks at testing a complete padding system, not just individual foam layers like the DFT. The MOFO uses single-axis CNC controls to performs 1000s of drop at heights up to 18ft or larger. Although the DFT is limited to just the weight of the E missle (around 11lbs), the MOFO is made to have additional weights added to the drop carriage of up to 70lbs, more closely simulating the dead weight of a falling climber.