National Manufacturing Institute Scotland

MacDeck Lanscaping

Background

Macdeck Landscaping is a specialist decking company. Its owner approached the AFRC after carrying out basic prototyping on a unique product with global potential.

After working on its Decking Construction System for eight years, the firm wanted to test key structural aspects of its product to inspire further confidence before taking it to market.  

Made from composite material and timber, the system is designed to cover previously unusable ground and can be topped with landscaping material, such as lawn, paving or tiles. A sustainable and reusable solution, it does not require heavy machinery and plant, concrete, blockwork or brickwork.

Customer challenge

The product features composite layers because they are durable, light and strong. They sit on a timber frame, allowing for sufficient drainage of the structure, which is load bearing and suspended at height.

Using composite material in this type of construction is truly innovative. Key to the project was understanding how the decking structure would perform under certain stress.

How did the AFRC help?

Seeking expert input, the firm used the Interface service, which links up businesses with academics. The AFRC picked up the enquiry in collaboration with the University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) and the project was funded by an Innovation Voucher from the Scottish Funding Council.

The combination of different materials used in the product, presented the AFRC and MAE with a challenge when investigating how it would respond under certain conditions.

First, the performance of the elements of the decking system was experimentally tested at MAE, where there is significant expertise in materials and structural analysis. This revealed differences between currently and previously used panels and provided valuable information for input into computer simulations that allowed engineers at the AFRC to test more variables.

Full scale testing was performed on the decking system by means of simulation of various product combinations and stresses, which were undertaken at the AFRC, using Finite Element Analysis (FEA).  Modelling the performance and behaviour of the materials within a virtual environment like this provides significant savings in cost and time compared to physical testing.  

In collaboration with MAE, the AFRC successfully helped the customer better understand where damage would occur in the decking system under certain conditions. It also provided data on the sequence of this damage and how quickly it would progress.  This information successfully met the client’s requirements, although is not to be used as a safety guidance for industry purposes.

The experts at NMIS then recommended a modular design for the test rig, allowing the prototype to be developed on-site at Nami Surgical’s 3D printing facility. This would enable the in-house production of all bespoke parts for the rig. They also shared advice and guidance on components that are not suitable for 3D printing but can be purchased off-the-shelf.

With health and safety in mind, and as the VSBPT is a wet process, NMIS ensured the voltage limit of the rig’s electric equipment adheres to best practice guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive’s electricity at work regulations.

The NMIS team also carried out a study to identify the maximum applied force of the rig, and subsequently suggested suitable off-the-shelf clamping techniques that align with the force limit.

Throughout the development stringent standards of the highly regulated medical technology sector were considered by the engineers of NMIS, who drew on their expertise and experience of healthcare applications.

 

man posing for a photo

Anthony McCaffrey, Macdeck Landscaping said:

Interactions with the team at the AFRC and MAE were invaluable– everyone was enthusiastic and knew exactly what we were trying to do. The people doing the testing, those helping me secure the funding, everybody was brilliant."

Business impact

The data and test result outputs from the project increased the customer’s confidence in the Decking Construction System, encouraging them to take the product to market. They have now secured their first customer, a builder’s merchant and is intending to engage with the wider UK construction sector. Working with the University has also equipped the firm with valuable know-how that has enhanced its competitive edge and will act as a barrier to entry for rival firms.