Jeroen van Rooijen — 24.01.2019

Serge Ferrari AG is based in Eglisau (canton of Zurich) and specialises in coating technical textiles. It is launching the world’s first inflammable yet breathable façade membrane: Stamisol Safe One. The material is the first of its kind that is genuinely inflammable.

Some people drive Ferrari, others build with it. But there are some major differences: racing driver Enzo Ferrari developed a sports car in 1946, whereas Serge Ferrari launched his first products – high-strength composite materials for industrial applications – in 1973. While most Ferrari models are only designed for two occupants, Serge Ferrari’s products can be used on buildings housing tens of thousands of people. There is also a difference in terms of pricing: a new Ferrari costs 200,0000 Swiss francs or more, whereas the price per square metre of Serge Ferrari’s industrial textiles starts at around 5 Swiss francs.

In other words, the two Ferrari manufacturers have very little in common other than a shared family name. Nonetheless, Serge Ferrari AG, which has been operating in Switzerland since 2001, is a top-quality brand that enjoys an excellent reputation among its customers. Its flexible composite materials are used by planners and architects throughout the world and feature light weight, comprehensive functionality and lengthy service life, as the guarantees for up to twenty years clearly underscore. Serge Ferrari textiles are used as protection against sunlight, as façade cladding, waterproof seat covers, boat tarpaulins, stadium roofing, breathable façade sheeting, etc. They can be found at many construction sites and also enable architects to make sports centres, high-rise buildings, schools, hospitals, water storage facilities, multi-storey car parks and many other kinds of buildings more functional and more attractive.

Serge Ferrari produces hundreds of meters and tons of construction textiles.
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The most visible products in the portfolio of Serge Ferrari AG are Stamoid (a textile that is widely used in Switzerland for covering yachts), Batyline and Stamskin, which are also used in the recreational boating segment. Stamisol, a breathable façade membrane used in architecture that acts rather like a membrane in functional wear, is becoming ever more widely known. Thanks to its unique coating formula it provides a high level of protection against ultraviolet rays, rain and wind. Stamisol ensures that buildings remain warm and dry despite having an open façade construction. Plus, its high degree of breathability allows residual moisture to escape so an optimal indoor climate can be maintained. In the future, it will also provide buildings with the best possible fire protection.

Pictures from the manufacturing site in Eglisau, Switzerland

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The new product, Stamisol Safe One, enables full compliance with building regulations that have long been in effect but until now could not be satisfactorily implemented. Since the beginning of 2017, buildings in Switzerland that are over eleven metres high and have an open façade construction have had to be equipped with inflammable façade membranes – a requirement that to date has often been circumnavigated with the aid of a special permit. This is a matter of some concern. Since the devastating fire that destroyed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017, it has been clear to everyone that such buildings are a major fire risk and more effective fire safety regulations are required.

For more than ten years, Serge Ferrari has possessed comprehensive know-how for developing glass fibre/elastomer composite materials for architectural and industrial applications, but developing an inflammable façade sheeting with the aid of these technologies posed a major challenge – partly with respect to the requirements of breathability and weather resistance, but also due to the problem of installation, which has to be easy to carry out in line with the established principles. The development team at Serge Ferrari spent more than a year working on a solution to these challenges, and were able to launch the new membrane in mid-November. For the public authorities, who frequently award large-scale construction projects, and the country’s major building companies and architects, the new fabric not only facilitates compliance with the relevant building regulations, it also opens up new design opportunities.

Ready for sale: Serge Ferrari products in Eglisau
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It is the first inflammable textile of its kind made of glass fibres, and is produced in France and coated in Eglisau with an innovative elastomer compound. Niklaus Zemp, managing director of the two Swiss subsidiaries of Serge Ferrari in Eglisau and Emmenbrücke, and his colleague Tim Schubert, who is responsible for the Stamisol range of products, expect their new creation to usher in a decisive growth boom. Priced at 32 Swiss francs per square metre, Stamisol Safe One is around two to three times as expensive as other textiles that have been used for the same purposes, but only the new Serge Ferrari fabric is genuinely inflammable. For large buildings such as schools, hospitals or corporate headquarters around 500 to 1,000 square metres of the fabric are required. The additional costs for first-class membranes have little impact on the overall budget for the construction of large buildings, but when it comes to fire safety the extra expense is certainly a sound investment.

Producing a technical fabric like Stamisol Safe One calls for a pioneering spirit and ingenuity, as well as a lot of materials, effort and energy. Enormous, sturdy production lines are required onto which the 2.65-metre wide strips of material have to be attached before the various production steps (coating and finishing) can be started. Tonnes of material have to be moved, processed and stored. These tasks require employees who are able to handle heavy loads, so most of the machines have to be operated by strong men. Serge Ferrari AG has 85 employees in Eglisau and 65 in Emmenbrücke.

CEO Niklaus Zemp (left) and Tim Schubert, who is responsible for the Stamisol product (in the middle) with their team.
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As in many areas of industrial production today, both factories are operated as efficiently as possible by keeping the machines running round the clock in several shifts. Turning them on and off is a cost factor that has to be avoided wherever possible. A handful of personnel skilfully operate and closely monitor the steaming monster machines. Despite the widespread use of automation and computer-based control systems, the coating of textiles still calls for expertise and a highly trained eye. Precision is essential: tenths of millimetres and fractions of degrees Celsius can make the difference and this changes from day to day, which means comprehensive production know-how is vital.

Most people are unaware of the products manufactured in Eglisau. Unless they work in the construction industry, people do not realise that buildings also “wear” textiles. Perhaps this is a good thing, because otherwise someone might get the idea to make a jacket out of these highly versatile building textiles! Tim Schubert and Niklaus Zemp laughingly wave that notion aside: the company only delivers to builder’s merchants in batches of at least 20 metres and an item of clothing made from Stamisol Safe One (310 grams per square metre) would hardly make the fashion headlines. It is currently only available in an unobtrusive black matt finish, which for construction purposes is the best and most commonly used colour.

Serge Ferrari AG, Eglisau and Emmenbrücke

Serge Ferrari was established in 1973 by a Frenchman of the same name, whose speciality was developing and selling composite materials for industrial applications. The company’s breakthrough came in 1974 with the development of “Précontraint” (= prestressed) technology, which is used for producing highly durable, stable textiles through biaxial pre-stressing of the coating. Sébastien and Romain Ferrari took over in 1981 and 1991 respectively as the second generation and began to focus on the sustainability of the utilised materials. In 2001, Serge Ferrari AG acquired the production of Stamoid from the Swiss company Forbo in Eglisau, and in 2005 it integrated the production of Tersuisse yarn in Emmenbrücke. Serge Ferrari has been listed on the Paris stock exchange since 2014. The group has a workforce of around 800 in more than 80 countries – around 140 of these employees are based in Switzerland.

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