Give it some depth, part three

I actually considered renaming the last three posts to Give It Some Depth, Give It Some Depth Strikes Back and Return of Give It Some Depth – but then decided that’d be a bit too geeky.

On the drive back from Neuchâtel this morning through the driving rain (yes, I was very glad we had the presence of mind to cancel the last of the three days of the course and move it to Autumn!) I was thinking about the last two posts. I realized that I was really thinking about the whole thing from a communication and presentation angle only, but that when I took a step back actually realized that it goes much deeper than that – that this philosophy is a red thread through much of the treemagineers story: all along we have always been very aware of the need to have a well-founded understanding of what we are doing, designing and talking about and attempting to back up statements with hard data.

Examples?

When we were first talking about the Ocean Polyester Eye to Eye slings we defined a stitch length that would function well in a Hitch Climber configuration, i.e. it had to be a fair bit shorter than all other stitched terminations out there that we were aware of. I remember that Egon, one of the engineers at Teufelberger was at the meeting where that stitch length and the feasibility was discussed. He had been in the company for years, had lots of experience – but never used to say much. But he’d get this oh-this-is-a-challenging-problem look sometimes, and he definitively had it on then… he’d go away and mull over the problem and you knew that great things are about to happen! That’s how it worked on that occasion. He delivered the goods – and then some! To this day, I love that termination, very functional and elegant!

It was clear that we could get certification for it, as it fulfilled the necessary criteria.

However, during that same time Ulli Distel was doing high cycle testing on his Gecko spikes after a couple of issues with them. This got us wondering whether high-cycle failure might be an issue for textiles too. So we decided to run high cycle tests on Ulli’s rig, doing a range of tests of up to 100’000 cycles at low load and then testing for residual breaking strain and also constant cycles with increasing load. No standard requires this, but it was info we felt we wanted to have in the background before people started trusting their lives to the slings.

Or the long descent testing comparing Polyester and Ocean Poly slings. That was great, fixed up a rig in the Musical Theatre here in Basle and simulated constant descents on a loop of rope for a range of descent speeds. Again, nothing required by standards, but non the less highly relevant information in view of the planned use of the Eye to Eye slings. The difference between the performance of Polyester and the PES/ Aramid co-braid was really striking, after 2000m we gave up on wearing through the 10mm slings in one descent. That would be a big tree indeed! But again, this is all fantastic data to have to fall back on.

Then the epic ascender/ lanyard/ line testing that Chris did with a crew on DMM’s drop tower in Llanberris. Or the Impact Block testing that we did in the forest a couple of years back…

Testing to standards is all very well, but sometimes you want to know just that little bit more about how the equipment is going to behave in a real-world situation…

Apart from the fact that it’s fun and interesting to do this kind of testing, it is also adding to the depth of understanding backing up a product or an assembly. In view of the fact that we’re not  designing.. dunno, computer games or sunglasses, but equipment that people are trusting their lives to, we feel very strongly that from an ethical point of view this is the right thing to do.