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Fabricating

Batman’s 4-D thrill ride

By Lynn Stanley

This story has been updated for the July/August 2016 Top Webex issue.

Manufacturer combines specialty steels and ingenuity to unleash the world’s first free-spin roller coaster

May 2015 - “Holy adrenaline!” The catchphrase frequently uttered by Burt Ward as Robin in the 1960s TV series “Batman” seems appropriate as Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio, Texas, prepares to unveil Batman: The Ride, on Memorial Day. 

It’s the world’s first 4-D free-spin roller coaster designed and manufactured by S&S Worldwide Inc. of Logan, Utah. The manufacturer of vertical and family thrill rides based its design on technology borrowed from older “brother” X2 4th Dimension, at Six Flags Magic Mountain, with a few new twists. 

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A typical roller coaster operates in three dimensions, explains S&S Senior Project Manager Preston Perkes. “The free spin upgrades the ride to 4-D, which allows the seats to freely spin forward and backward using gravity and the weight distribution of each passenger seat.”

S&S also employs a mature technology in a new way to help control the ride. “On most coasters, magnets are used to produce eddy currents in the braking fins to deliver a smooth, comfortable stop,” Perkes says. “We worked with our supplier to use an eddy current system in a new and innovative configuration to help force or retard spins.”

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The prototype

The S&S engineering team specified high-strength steel for the ride, the majority of which was heat treated. “When you are in the business of transporting people, your design has to be sound and that means using high-strength materials particularly for the passenger cars,” says Perkes.

S&S spent considerable time prototyping and testing its free spin design concept. “This ride had never been built before,” he explains. “Anytime you fabricate something for the first time it’s not uncommon for the manufactured components to behave in ways the design didn’t intend. Our decision to test the concept allowed us to make key adjustments to the design, manufacture new components and successfully test the ride to prove the concept.”

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Featuring a 12-story lift, six full inversions and two 90-degree-plus drops, the ride has a compact footprint yet reaches a top speed of 40 mph over 1,000 ft. of track constructed to move back and forth like a vintage foosball game. Beyond-vertical drops have been done before, Perkes says. “but this coaster’s drops occur faster than other rides due to passengers riding in cars located on the sides of the track instead of under or on top of the track.

“We also fabricated the ride’s structure with a visual design that is different from other rides,” he adds. “Ride structures are usually vertical, but our ride has members that form two Ws. The arrangement leans out to each side reaching the outermost sections of track for a very unique look.”

S&S hired Rocky Mountain Construction to fabricate the track. The Hayden, Idaho, company used its patented technology calling for steel plates to be cut and welded together, producing a square or box track versus the standard round pipe used to form most track rails. “This type of track was especially suited to the Batman roller-coaster because the ride doesn’t have any left or right turns,” Perkes says.

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Launch sequence

Fabrication of the track, structure and mechanical ride components was completed in December 2014. Passenger vehicle fabrication was completed March 2015. Ride components totaled 165,000 with approximately 95,000 fasteners. Perkes estimates that the structure weighs in at 275 tons.

Once thrill seekers are securely fastened in, passengers will ascend a 120-ft.-tall vertical lift and end the ride with a final forward flip. Based on rider feedback, Fiesta Texas can increase or decrease the amount of spinning by adjusting the coaster’s kickers, Perkes says. One wonders whether some riders might not also request their own Bat-signal. Just in case they’ve misplaced their courage. FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Beckwood Press Co. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters Triform

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc.

LASER TECHNOLOGY

Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

SOFTWARE

BENDING/FOLDING

AMADA AMERICA, INC.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. Mazak Optonics Corp. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC MC Machinery Systems Inc.

PLATE & ANGLE ROLLS

SigmaTEK Systems LLC

BEVELING

Murata Machinery, USA, Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC TRUMPF Inc.

PRESS BRAKE TOOLING

STAMPING/PRESSES

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LINEAR POSITION SENSORS

Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group MTS Sensors Rolleri USA

STEEL

Burghardt + Schmidt Group

MATERIAL HANDLING

PRESS BRAKES

Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC.

TUBE & PIPE

Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial Automec Inc. BLM Group
Tishken

MEASUREMENT & QUALITY CONTROL

MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies SafanDarley

WATERJET

Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

PUNCHING

Barton International

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit

SAWING

Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc. Behringer Saws Inc.

WELDING

Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Savage Saws T. J. Snow Company

 

MetalForming Inc.

 

 

 

MICROFINISHING TOOLS

 

 

 

Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

 


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