Load testing by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has enabled family-run Howden-based Redvek Ltd to begin production of its innovative plastic safety decking system.
The company aims to disrupt the market with its lightweight, easy to assemble, flexible panel design for working and safety platforms which are used in the construction industry, particularly house building.
However, before the new product could go into production, Mike Bramley and son-in-law Chris Bateman, needed to test and validate the system’s structural integrity and safety.
To help them achieve certification, Mr Bateman approached the Advanced Structural Testing Centre (ASTC) team at the AMRC, which is part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.
He said: “It is quite hard to find someone to test a product like this. Most places I spoke to were offering material testing - tensile testing the plastic material - but we needed more than that. We approached the Advanced Structural Testing Centre at the AMRC for help.”
The Revdek system was put through rigorous testing by the UKAS-accredited ASTC team, which applied loads of up to 305kg per m2
to ensure the panels met the standards required by the company and the system achieved Class 4, which Mr Bateman says makes it stronger and safer than other plastic systems on the market.
He said: “We have been working on the design and development of the safety decking system for several years now and so to reach a point of having a product that is ready for industry standard testing is very exciting.
“Furthermore, having the system pass the tests means that our time, energy and resources invested in developing the system have been well spent, and this is a particular success and achievement for Mike who has been the key innovator behind the unique features of the Revdek safety decking system.”
Phil Spiers, head of the ASTC, said Revdek were a pleasure to work with as the group develops its capability for offering test solutions to industry.
He said: “This is just the sort of testing that the AMRC is geared up for, supporting SMEs with accredited testing that enables them to get a certified product to market.
The testing of complex and ‘out of the ordinary’ products and assemblies is what the Advanced Structural Test Centre excels at and being able to secure this testing as part of the AMRC’s commitment to funding SME projects makes access to a world-class accredited test facility possible for the ‘small people’ who form the backbone of UK production.”
Once assembled, the bright green injection moulded plastic panels form a sturdy access deck that allows craftsmen to work at height safely and prevents falls as it is able to reach the storey height for the installation of things such as floor joists, beams or roof trusses.
It is not only strength that sets Revdek apart from its competitors, it is the innovative design. The panels are rectangular in shape, measuring 1,200 x 900mm. The majority of other systems currently on the market feature square panels and measure 1,000 x 1,000mm.
Mr Bateman continued: “We have tried to innovate and do things a bit differently. Not all building plots are square so you can get what we call ‘overlaps’ when fitting the panels. But if you have a rectangular board that is 1,200 x 900mm, it is designed in such a way that it allows more versatility.
“We think we will use 8% fewer boards than we would if using square boards because the surface area is slightly more which means fewer panels being required and also fewer overlaps.
“This is important because if you have an overlap it becomes a trip hazard. It also means you are using more boards; more boards means more product, more plastic, and more environmental waste.”
Mr Bateman says the other major innovation of the design is what lies beneath the panels – a ‘spring clip’ mechanism.
“All other safety decking products on the market use a straight pin to lock the panels together whereas we have designed this spring clip.
“The advantages of that is you don’t have to secure it with nylon rope like you do with straight pins. The spring clip is nylon-based plastic so it springs outwards and locks in to stop it falling out.
“As there are fewer component parts being used, it means the system is a lot quicker to assemble and dismantle.”
Revdek is an entity of Prodek Safety Systems, which was set up by Mike Bramley more than 13 years ago. Mr Bateman joined the company two years ago and soon after the pair set up Revdek.
Mr Bateman concluded: “We have spent the last two years developing our own system with the knowledge we have gained from supplying and fitting safety decking for the last 13 years.
“One of Mike’s visions was he didn’t want to copy what is already available, he wanted to innovate. We took the decision to do things differently and out-think the competition.
“We were stubborn to the point of saying ‘no we can do something better’ – creating a system that uses fewer components and is easier to erect and dismantle for our operatives. That means we can do more in a day – increasing our productivity.
“We have been through a number of iterations of the designs, looked at different versions of the polymer plastic, different cooling cycles for the components, and it has been a journey and to get to the testing stage.”
The project was paid for by the AMRC using funds from the High Value Manufacturing (HMV) Catapult as part of its commitment to supporting small- and medium-size businesses.