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Mechanical Components Blog

The Mechanical Components Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about parts, tools, and hardware such as bearings and bushings, tools and testing, materials and industrial hardware. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Safely Engineering Theme Park Rides

Posted August 11, 2016 10:27 AM by HUSH

After this year’s string of ride malfunctions, I may not make my annual pilgrimage to one of the several amusement parks within a few hours’ drive.

I belong to an online rollercoaster forum, so I’ve seen the recent headlines. Coaster trains stuck. Coaster trains derailing. Coaster parts malfunctioning. Coaster trains colliding. More coaster trains stuck. Some estimates are as high as 45,000 injuries from amusement park rides each year in the United States.

And then, this past weekend, the tragic story of a 10-year-old boy decapitated on the ride Verruckt, located at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. Two women riding with the boy were also hurt. The incident occurred when the raft of the ride crested on a bunny hill, which is an unusual feature for a water slide.

Rollercoasters and other thrilling amusement park rides are meant to stimulate riders fear and excitement, but return them safely to the ground. Each ride takes substantial engineering to build and maintain, so when something goes horribly wrong, as it did with Verruckt, the ride’s engineering is closely reviewed.

Verruckt opened in 2014 as the tallest and fastest waterslide in the world. Riders are strapped into rafts that are sent down a 17 story plunge before cresting over a 50 foot hill, and finally descending to the braking pool below for exit.

Yet reports show that Verruckt’s debut was pushed back in 2014 because engineers discovered rafts loaded with sandbags would fly off the uphill on test runs (skip ahead in the video to 0:30).

At the time, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeff Henry, who designed the ride along with the park’s senior designer John Schooley, admitted to using rollercoaster calculations in the initial design. According to Henry, essential factors such as air and water friction weren’t accounted for.

Fixes included adding trim brakes to the first drop; reducing the slope at the bottom of the initial drop from 45° to 22°; an extra five feet added to the uphill; and rubberized friction pads to slow the raft and increase friction throughout the ride. To ensure the raft made it up the hill, water blasters were added to propel rafts up the last few feet. These fixes cost more than $1 million and set Verruckt’s opening date back by months.

There are rider rumors that prior to 2016 Verruckt changed some of the slide’s braking, as trim brakes were wearing out the rafts too soon, to more friction mats.

From the very beginning, park officials and engineers knew that they were likely pushing the safety limits of this water slide. It seems like a grave error from a waterpark that had itself dubbed the slide “safe dangerous.” I would be very surprised to see Verruckt open ever again.

(By the way, this week’s Olympics post is by BestinShow: The Hottest Tech in Olympic Cycling.)

3 comments; last comment on 08/15/2016
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Putting a New Spin on Bearing Research

Posted June 07, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Data that tells engineers how rolling bearings behave under high centrifugal forces is scarce. That situation will soon change, as Germany's Friedrich-Alexander University and Schaeffler Group co-developed a spin test stand and instituted research to study bearings under extreme loads. The collaboration then hopes to use the data to refine mechanical design and material choices, creating components that will lower energy consumption in machines, vehicles, and aircraft. On the test stand, bearings are exposed to 3,000x gravitational acceleration, or about 400x the load to which fighter pilots are subjected.


The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Mechanical Components, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Mechanical Components today.

1 comments; last comment on 06/08/2016
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Fiber Reinforcement for 3D Printing

Posted March 05, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Not so long ago, few would have predicted the integration of so many manufacturing technologies into 3D printing processes, the latest being fiber reinforcement. Engineers at the University of Bristol recently demonstrated a method that uses ultrasonic waves to position millions of microscopic glass fibers which are then cured by lasers in epoxy resin. The process, which is said to be fast and cheap - achieving print speeds of 20 mm/s - can be added to an off-the-shelf 3D printer (see video).


The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Mechanical Components, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Mechanical Components today.

1 comments; last comment on 10/14/2016
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Plugging the Gaps in Wind Power Efficiency

Posted January 20, 2016 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Most of the world's wind turbines are three-bladed and typically convert about one percent of available wind energy into electricity. That low figure was the impetus that spurred Kean Wind Turbines to develop a simpler turbine that would convert far more of the usable energy. This article describes a "breakthrough" design that claims to harness 40%-plus of the wind energy (video). The principal idea is to route 100% of the wind into the turbine blades, sharply contrasting with traditional wind turbines whose blades touch only about 5% of the passing wind.


The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Mechanical Components, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Mechanical Components today.

6 comments; last comment on 03/20/2016
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Designing for Sustainability

Posted December 14, 2015 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

One of the toughest assignments in any product design project is performing the calculations and assessments of a product's environmental impact. This article explores what designing for sustainability really means, and identifies one tool that helps engineers conduct the assessment directly within the 3D CAD program. While examining recyclability of materials and product durability, the author suggests the most important "sustainability factor" is energy efficiency.


The preceding article is a "sneak peek" from Mechanical Components, a newsletter from GlobalSpec. To stay up-to-date and informed on industry trends, products, and technologies, subscribe to Mechanical Components today.

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