Ticona, the engineering polymers business of Celanese Corporation, is supporting “Mission Icefox” — an expedition to the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen by extreme athletes using an expedition sled, or Pulka, formed with unidirectional Celstran continuous fiber reinforced thermoplastics (CFR-TP). See all of the photos here.
All the Pulka components are designed for optimum support for the expedition that extreme athletes Mike Fuchs and Eric Folz are using on their nearly four-week expedition to the northernmost point of the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen:
- Unidirectional Celstran CFR-TP tapes from Ticona form the shell of Pulka to combine maximum resilience under Arctic conditions with extremely low weight.
- GUR ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene (UHMW-PE) from Ticona used in the runners is shatterproof and scratch resistant even under extreme stresses while maintaining excellent glide characteristics.
The 170 centimeters long by 63 centimeters wide (67 by 25 inches) Pulka, with a load volume under the cover of 600 liters (158 gallons), is a less strenuous means to transport the equipment essential for survival over the 560-kilometer (348-mile) ski tour from Longyearbyen to Verlegenhuken at the northernmost point on Spitsbergen and back. The expedition is scheduled to cover 23 days and initially takes the two adventurers towards the North Pole. At subfreezing temperatures of -45 degrees Celsius (-49 degrees Fahrenheit), meticulous planning is vital in preparing for the expedition.
“In the preparation it is important to have a plan B and a plan C in place for any potentially dangerous situations because you have to act fast in the field. Intensive familiarization with the safety equipment to ensure reliable use even in the dark is just as important as mental preparation for any handicaps,” explained Fuchs.
He and his partner in the expedition, Folz, have continuously trained for endurance in recent months to reach physical fitness for the exertions of the tour. Regular running and cycling were as much a part of the program as a controlled, healthy weight gain. But it’s not just about physical performance, explained Fuchs: “The trick is to recognize the point at which it’s better to crawl into the tent and drink tea.”
Fuchs is a full-time photographer. He has experience from several tours in the far north. Folz, who works as an engineer at Ticona, is an enthusiastic long-distance runner and extreme athlete outside of work and is using his annual vacation for the adventure of a lifetime.
Folz is also aware of what lies ahead for man and material: “We are sure to reach our limits now and then. These may be physical limits or limits imposed by nature and its effects. That’s why we collaborated closely with the manufacturers Acapulka and Stükerjürgen in developing the concept of the sled: Low weight, high stiffness and strength as well as optimum impact strength at very low temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius are decisive to the success of our project. And of course good glide characteristics at all temperatures and on the vastly differing forms of snow and ice that occur.”
Ticona is supporting Mission Icefox with the objective of demonstrating the superior properties of unidirectional Celstran CFR-TP tapes for the production of extremely lightweight and resilient structural components. This aim has already been reached with the material know-how and sled construction experience of the development partner Acapulka and Stükerjürgen.
Alexander Bierwald, responsible for the development of the new Pulka at Acapulka commented: “We haven’t detected any material-specific weaknesses in the components in any of the preceding tests.” And Folz adds: “The reliability of the sled is of vital significance to us. We can’t take the equipment essential for survival like satellite phone, gas cooker, gas, provisions, tent, clothing, sleeping bags, emergency sender, flare gun and flares over 560 kilometer in 23 days without it. We’re talking about a total load of 130 kilogram (286 pounds)! That’s why the Pulka underwent an exhaustive test program in advance — and passed with flying colors. The conditions during the expedition could hardly be more difficult.”
These tests included glide characteristics as well as tip and track stability. The sled was pulled manually or using a kite. The kite was used to determined fatigue on loading and tensile loading at high speeds. The impact and notched impact strength was tested with horizontal and vertical impact tests. Pulka expert Bierwald summarizes the positive results: “The material is highly resilient and has a potential weight saving in our application of up to 40 percent in the finished sled.”
The new Pulkas will be demonstrating their qualities in the Artic from March 27 to probably up to April 22. Folz and Fuchs will cover between 7 and 45 kilometer (4 to 28 miles) per day — depending on the ground and weather conditions. The two adventurers will post their experiences in their polymers-on-ice blog, which includes all the information about Mission Icefox.
Filed Under: Rapid prototyping