In what has been called a “major development” for body builders in Australia, 35-year-old business Selectrix has become the exclusive Australian distributor of Ecofont – a glass-reinforced polyester panel used for constructing floors and walls that has taken the European market by storm.
Developed by French composite panel specialist Polyfont in 2013, Selectrix’ Managing Director, David Stuckey, discovered the Ecofont product at the 2014 IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Germany. Knowing the product could make a real difference to the Australian market, David immediately began partnership negotiations with Polyfont. In March 2015, the collaboration finally become official, culminating in the Ecofont’s launch at this year’s Brisbane Truck Show.
“The EcoFont has become a ‘game-changer’ throughout Europe’s rigid body building market because of how strong and light the material is,” David says. “This allows the fleet operator to increase their payload significantly and deliver more freight daily. It’s already being used by some of the biggest transport and logistics businesses in Europe that regularly use rigid and pantech vans.”
As David explains, the new product is adaptable to working in all sorts of environments. “The Ecofont is manufactured from high density Polyethylene-Terephthalate (PET) foam that represents the core, while the glass reinforced polyester is applied in liquid form over the top of the PET to form the surface. The two materials blend well together giving it plenty of strength and flexibility,” he says. “It’s also water-proof, making it more durable than traditional composite materials.”
But it’s the weight savings from using the Ecofont that will appeal most to Australian operators, David says. “It could potentially save an operator up to 500kg of weight, which can then be used for additional payload. Our research has shown that most fleets would prefer to maximise their payload if the material used to build the vehicle’s body is sufficient. The beauty of Ecofont is that there’s no drop off in the strength department, and that goes for the life of the vehicle.”
According to Selectrix, Ecofont is commercial vehicle rated and has gone through numerous factory load capacity trials in Europe and Australia. “We have conducted many tests on its durability using a manual pallet loader carrying a test load of between 500 and 1000kg. One of the tests was monitored by an automatic motor that rolled the load up and down the floor, equating to roughly 30,000 cycles per week,” David describes. “After 60,000 cycles, we stopped the test and deemed the floor to have passed.”
Not only does the Ecofont last longer, but it also doesn’t need layers of materials to keep it together, according to the new Australian representative. “It is set up to be a self-supporting flooring system, which means the builder doesn’t need to use cross-members anymore. You can also screw into it or use glue to the sides and the ends. It’s very versatile and user-friendly,” he says.
“From some of the examples I saw in Germany, European builders are now gluing their truck bodies together – much like in the automobile industry.”
For rigid body manufacturers in Australia, Ecofont can therefore help make manufacturing processes more efficient. “On a pantech rigid, for instance, the manufacturer would need to fit steel cross-members every 300mm, cut them up and then weld them on, which can make for a lengthy process,” David says. “With Ecofont, they can just glue it on, it’s that simple and it’s fast. Imagine how much time that process would save compared to conventional methods? Forget paying for 500 kg of steel. Ecofont will help companies save on labour cost, machinery cost and time – enabling that manufacturer to double, perhaps triple production.”
As the product gains traction locally, Selectrix says it’s already in negotiations with local builders to make Ecofont a permanent fixture. “We’re currently speaking with a number of rigid truck manufacturers and even some fleets about the benefits of using the material,” David says. “The bottom line is the Ecofont is one of the lightest materials to be developed in recent times, and now that we can supply it to the Australian market it has generated plenty of interest.