July 20, 2020

The science of slides

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Slides are always one of the most popular elements of our adventure play. But have you ever wondered about the science behind it, that makes it either super scary or slow and steady?

We have.

So who better to talk to than Huw Pritchard of Massey and Harris in Stockport, who make some of our biggest and most exciting tube slides. I asked them a whole series of questions to better understand how they work and to understand what makes a slide, slide.

This is what they told us.

Calculations

There are guidelines for the safety standards behind every slide. The simple rules are that the overall angle from top to bottom must not exceed 40 degrees. 35 degrees is more normal, 40 is a little steep. A drop slide can be as steep as 60 degrees at the top, but will need a much longer run out at the bottom to make the overall average angle stay within the 40 degree guideline.

With a longer slide, there's obviously more opportunity to gather speed, so we have to control the speed all the way down.

The biggest slides we have designed have been 12-13 metres in height and 30 metres long. The most recent of these started with a 35 degree angle at the top, which then led into a bend. This takes you around a 210 degree spiral which introduces more friction to slow you down. The drop then reduces to 30 degrees and gradually flattens off as you near the bottom.

The steepness of the slide obviously depends on the target age group of the play area. In summary, anything over 4-5 metres, tends to be aimed at older children and shorter than this, for younger children.

Regulations

The regulation across all slides and playground equipment is EN1176 which was updated in 2017. For slides there are three main criteria. The sliding angles to work to, that we covered above. The others are that we are limited to a seven-metre straight run to the first bend. After that, it's then limited to a maximum six-metre straight run before either the slide ends or another bend must be added.

The final part that guides us is that the total length of the run-out must be 1/3 of the total length for a slide with a half-round runout. So a six-metre slide must have two metres of run-out, again to slow people down and make it safer to exit the slide at the bottom. Alternatively, we can use a shorter run-out if we use an alternative design with a flatbed that curves into the ground at the end. This is designed so that you shouldn’t hurt yourself when you come off the end of the slide.

Materials

Most of our slides are made from 304-grade stainless steel, apart from those that are in coastal locations, where we use the even more corrosion resistant 316 stainless steel.

Most are finished in a brushed polished finish on the outside. We do finish the exterior of some slides with powder coating, some with a vinyl wrap and we recently finished a pair of interlocking spiral slides with an amazing mirror polish for INSIDE a London home within a very exclusive gated community. That was a challenge.

Manufacturing

Everything we do is in house, which makes things much easier. We start with a 3D CAD model of the slide, which allows us to look at it from every point of view and measure every angle. We can also model up the play structure, or the house for the two mirror-polished slides, to ensure they fit as intended.

When this is approved, the CAD program can flatten out the design and convert it into patterns for the laser cutter. When the pieces are cut, we roll them into shape and they are welded up into sections.

On the end of each section, we add a flange to enable them to be manufactured in manageable sections and transported easily and put back together on-site. For the bottom opening, we weld 32mm diameter tubular steel around the opening to give a safe and visually appealing edge. All of the welds are finally ground down to give them a nice clean finish.

 

Testing

Now, who wouldn't want the job of being 'Chief Slide tester'?

Thankfully it does seem as though the job exists and is every bit as much fun as hoped.

The completed slide is built up in the jig within the workshop and any adjustments made as required. The legs are then added to ensure the positions are held and the structure is solid.

Everyone in the team then gets to try it before it's ready to go. With over 100 slides coming out of the workshop every year, that's a whole lot of sliding for everyone.

Transport

Once it's all tested, it's broken back down again and wrapped in plastic for protection and packed up for transportation. If delivery is in the UK, slides are normally transported on a dedicated lorry, often with a Hiab to help unload. For customers overseas, slides are often packed into a purpose-built frame to hold everything in place so it can sit in a standard shipping container.

So there is some science involved and getting it wrong would mean an unusable slide. Slides deliver good safe fun, we love them and now need to go out and find some of our favourites and get sliding. This one we've just completed at Fritton Lake is a great example of one of our favourites. It's just the right balance of quick, steep and yet slows you down enough by the bottom for an easy safe exit.

Installation

Installation is completely dependent on location. You can see from some of the images below that it is a manual job with heavy lifting right into the site and then muscle and leverage to complete the installation. Here are a few of our favourite installs.

Let the fun begin

When the installation is complete, the fun can begin. We have created custom slides for most of our projects across the UK and the world. Here are a few of our favourites.

 

Happy sliding.

Thanks to Huw Pritchard and team from Massey and Harris.

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