The principle of the skeleton event sounds really simple — reach the bottom of the ice track using a sled in the shortest time possible, and yet there is much more to it than that!
The skeleton is the oldest sliding sport, dating back to the 1800s. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, about to get underway, we are taking a look at how portable metrology is being used to bring this sport right up to date in 2014.
With the sleds reaching speeds up to 140km/h (90mph) and undergoing forces up to 5Gs, skeleton isn’t a sport for the faint hearted. To be in contention for gold, skeleton athletes must have super-fast reflexes and be physically and mentally fit.
For a sled to be fast down the track, it must be energy-efficient in every way. The sled has no active steering, so athletes use shifts in their body weight and subtle body movements to steer left or right. Any sliding, skidding or unnecessary energy loss results in the loss of precious tenths of seconds.
G forces are continuously trying to push the athletes’ head into the track, so they really need to feel the sled is an extension of their body. However, achieving that close relationship is extremely difficult because access to world-class tracks is very limited, so huge importance is placed on analysis and simulation. And this is where the ROMER Absolute Arm from Hexagon Metrology comes into play.
Kristan Bromley is CEO of Bromley Technologies Ltd, a high-tech company that develops skeleton sleds and promotes the sport to the wider public. After 13 years as a design engineer at BAE Systems, he is also a British, European and World Skeleton Champion and a three-time Olympian.
Using tactile measurement and non-contact laser scanning of the ROMER Absolute Arm, Kristan is able to gather rich 3D data, enabling him to make more effective designs and, ultimately, a faster sled.
One such utilisation is to use the laser scanner to generate a rapid and accurate 3D mesh of the athlete’s body shape. This data is then used in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to better understand the sled’s behaviour as it moves down the track. The fact that this data also can be reverse engineered into fully functional CAD models means that Kristan and his team can work through design iterations faster than with conventional methods and arrive at an optimum sled design faster than his competitors.
The metrology equipment also plays a part in sled assembly. Using the arm’s touch probe, the sled’s components can be aligned and assembled with pin-point accuracy. This accurate alignment makes quantifying any setup changes much easier, and that leads to the best possible performance of the sled once it’s on the ice.
When the skeleton competition takes place 13-15 February in Sochi, the Metrology team will be right behind Kristan and the British team to see what impact the ROMER Absolute Arm has had on the Olympic sport.
Using measurement to win the ultimate sporting accolade – that’s shaping SMART change.