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Ground Protection: Part 3 - Plastic Flooring—Choosing Among Durability, Speed and Security of Connection

To recap, here is where we are at now on our journey (for those keeping score at home, this is our third post in a four-part series): You need some sort of ground protection. You have elected to choose a hard material. And out of your three main options—plywood, concrete and plastic—plastic seems to make the most sense for your application.

In this post, we will zoom in on the plastic option.

There are three critical attributes to consider:

  1. Speed (how long it takes to install/uninstall)
  2. Durability (how long the product itself is usable)
  3. Security of Connection (how well the modular pieces lock into each other)

Here is the interesting part (and, yes, ground protection can be interesting—stay with us!). You might think that the ideal solution would be optimized for all three attributes. It should be easy to put together quickly; it should be durable and rugged; and the pieces should lock together effortlessly. But that is not the reality- at least not any reasonable price point. You can really only optimize for two out of three of these and still expect to afford it. (In some ways, the choice mirrors the “Fast. Cheap. Good.” dilemma.)

  1. Installs quickly with good connection security –> do not expect much durability.
  2. Installs quickly and durable –> connection security is sacrificed.
  3. Durable with good connection security –> slower installation.

Where does WORKHORSE fall on this map?

Our 2-inch Panels (both Standard and ICM) install rapidly, and it are incredibly durable. However, we do not currently include locking mechanisms (e.g. bolts or cam locks). This is by design, because if we did include them, we’d have to sacrifice on the other dimensions. This is not to say the pieces are not held together. There are friction-fit connection channels molded into the modular panels. But if you are trying to install it over very uneven ground, it is possible that the connections could come undone.

We do have a few workarounds though. For instance, you can stake down flooring pieces through 3/8-inch drainage holes (sacrificing speed of install). Or you could also connect multiple panels together by installing drift pins on the underside of the panels. The latter is something of a pain however, because the connectors are on the underside, and so we do not typically recommend that workaround.

Our 1-inch Panels, by contrast, come with optional-use stainless steel locking pins to connect multiple panels together. The durability remains the same, but speed of assembly is slowed slightly if you elect to use the locking pins. Instead of simply dropping each panel in place, you need to spend a few more seconds getting the locking pin into place.

WORKHORSE 1-inch Panels are installed over grass by a crew of 3 men and a fork-truck

Bear in mind that all plastic ground protection products exist on a compromise on this triangle. Some products excel in one dimension; some in two; but no one is perfect on all three. In fact, if a product is balanced on the triangle, it is not going to excel in any of them! Therefore, most manufacturers focus on one or two dimensions.

Many manufacturers favor the secure connection and speed, while a handful optimize for durability and secure connection (WORKHORSE 1-inch Panels fall in this category if the locking pins are used). That’s what makes WORKHORSE 2-inch Panels (and 1-inch Panels if the locking pins are not used) unique. We’ve invested a lot to maximize durability and optimize speed, enabling faster installs while ensuring our customers will not need to buy new ground protection panels every few years.

Zipline personnel standing on WORKHORSE 2-inch Panels after a successful UAV Drone recovery

Stick with us as we contrast the different types of WORKHORSE Ground Solutions products in the next and final post of our ground protection journey series.

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