Heathrow airport terminal

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Some of the top companies and technical solutions combine to keep Heathrow Airport running. Custom Moulded Polyurethane is delighted to be part of that team, by developing new housing for automated car park equipment.

Polyurethane components and parts find their way into increasing numbers of everyday purposes, and it’s easy to overlook what a vital role they can play. However, one of the best examples of their important problem-solving potential can be found at Heathrow Airport.

In 2018, the 1,227-hectare site handled well over 80 million passengers and 1.70 million metric tonnes of cargo. The logistics management and technology that goes into orchestrating over 475,000 annual flight movements is vast.

(source: https://www.heathrow.com/company/about-heathrow/company-information/facts-and-figures)

Yet the company behind this international air hub – Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited – has many more issues to juggle. Including ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers and crew while they are on the ground!

One of their challenges is to offer efficient and safety-conscious car parking facilities at the airport.

How moulded polyurethane came to the rescue

Terminal 5 at Heathrow generates a great deal of traffic, and managing vehicle flow into, around and exiting three car parking areas was crucial. This included helping customers to locate a vacant slot within 7,000 parking spaces.

An astute technician and designer developed an automated system of sensors and lights to show unoccupied spaces, guiding drivers to them efficiently and in an orderly fashion.

However, the magnetic sensor housings would be outdoors, in all weathers, and potentially subject to considerable friction and force from thousands of people walking on them, as well as vehicles driving across the surface.

Also, part of the technical challenge was finding a way to protect sensors long term. Having to renew the housing periodically due to corrosion, cracks or other issues would mean too much disruption within a car parking area in use every day of the year.

So, how could the housing structure be crafted to last?

The answer to these various goals and challenges lay in a partnership with the R&D specialists at Custom Moulded Polyurethane.

Finding cost-effective, robust solutions in polyurethane

We created a way to produce polyurethane magnetic sensor housings with the required strength and longevity. While keeping the unit cost feasible. It involved the correct chemical mix of this highly versatile substance, and moulding to shape with pinpoint accuracy.

This was achieved by working directly with the designer of the automated car parking system at Heathrow.

Partnerships like this one reflect the need to solve bespoke commissions for polyurethane components and parts not simple using relevant data. Sometimes, innovative flair and vision are also required, to get the solution to match the brief flawlessly.

By ‘putting their heads together’ the system designer and technicians at Custom Moulded Polyurethane developed housing for the infrared parking sensors that was perfect in dimension, tensile properties, functionality and reliability.

Putting solutions into place

As already mentioned, an added extra that Custom Moulded Polyurethane will always provide is affordability!

The cost point was readily agreed to, and production began on 7,000 polyurethane sensor housings. These were then delivered and installed within the main multi-story car park at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5.

Not only was the new automated parking guidance system now operational, but it also had protection from polyurethane to avoid repeated repairs and replacements.

So, if you are ever in a Terminal 5 car park, drive safely but keep an eye out for yellow housings on the sensor lights. They are playing a small but significant role in the vast and complex operations at Britain’s busiest airport.

Transporting component and part needs, into a delivered product

Not that this is our first foray into the highly demanding and innovative transport sector of course! Although the majority of previous developments in this field were for automotive clients, such as producing made-to-order axle link bushes, suspension bushes, flexible couplings, drive couplings, bump stops, wishbone rod bushes and even snow chains. To name but a few!

Another of our air industry projects is high grade, abrasion-resistant Snow Plough Scraper Blades, custom made for airport machinery.

To keep your technology and equipment going in the right direction, and standing up to testing conditions, contact us to discuss the best solutions in polyurethane.