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Roll Forming

Inventing with metal

By Julie Sammarco

Inventor Scott Olson creates a monorail bike for transportation, recreation and fitness

July 2012 - The inventor of the Rollerblade is bringing SkyRide Technology to the market, offering people a new way to move around. SkyRide Technology is an elevated, human-powered monorail bike for sustainable urban transportation, recreation and fitness.

Today, SkyRide Technology is installed on a farm in Waconia, Minn., and is open for test rides. The elevated monorail bike and row system with lane-changing ability allows riders to move quickly and efficiently around any environment. Made mostly from steel and aluminum, SkyRide Technology has potential applications such as tourist attractions, beach and mountain resort towns or fitness clubs and sports facilities. Urban environments, parks and skylines, retirement communities, special needs centers and industrial buildings and private homes are also possibilities, according to its inventor, Scott Olson.

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Olson, who came up with the idea about 15 years ago, says SkyRide is a combination of roller coaster and fitness product. “I invested in SkyRide with the idea that this will be a new way of exercising for people of all ages and abilities,” he says. “Also, because the machine is so lightweight, it can go as fast as 30 miles per hour.”

Olson expects to see SkyRide in ski resorts in the near future. Eventually, he wants to see it replace cars and buses in cities.

Materials and fabrication
The tracks and SkyRide machines are fabricated separately, says Olson.

Because Olson and his team do not have a roll-forming machine, they had the track made by St. Paul, Minn.-based Linders Specialty Co. Inc., which did the roll forming for the all-steel track before sending it back to the Waconia farm for final construction with the 12-ft.-tall towers that keep the system elevated above ground.

Vince Linders, president of Linders Specialty, says some of the biggest challenges to building the track were forming an open square section in a thin wall for the machines to hang from.

One track, a 600-ft.-long oval, is made from 8-in. square, 1/4-in. wall steel tube. Linders roll formed and bended the steel.

“The open slot in the 8-in. square, 1/4-in.-wall steel tube section caused deformation problems,” he says. “These were overcome by the addition of reinforcing at intervals along the track. We used horseshoe-shaped pieces to keep the hole from warping. This held the section within useable tolerances.”

The bikes are made in-house by Olson and his team. “So far, all the machines have been custom made using most of our own equipment—mills, lathes, welders and much old-fashioned hand tools like hand grinders, portable drills and portable band saws. We have very talented individuals.”

“We started with aluminum extrusions, then we drew up the CAD drawings. We put the extrusions on our CNC machines and cut the parts with a mill. We use benders to bend the material into the shapes we need,” he says. Once he has finished, bent parts he welds them together to go into the machines. “Once the aluminum frames are completed, the fiber glass bodies are screwed to the frames using hand tools and the finished bike is put on the track,” says Olson.

He overcame many challenges with trial and error, but keeping the machines lightweight was an important goal his team met.

“We try to make the Sky Riders as lightweight as possible,” says Olson. “We use a lot of steel and aluminum to make those machines. The lighter they are, the faster they will travel on the track, which is great for exercising and thrill-seeking. Most of the bike is cut from CNC machines and then welded together before painting. The frame is made out of aluminum. The actual dry systems are both aluminum and steel.”

Olson is currently is accepting orders for the technology.

Because this product is available for public and private use, tracks can be built small enough to fit in a backyard or large enough to be built for entire communities. As for pricing, Olson says it will vary. Private installations could be as little as $75,000. Public installations, like the one he quoted recently for a ski resort, could be around $1.5 million. FFJ

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