Marc Zupan, UMBC – University of Maryland Baltimore County Baltimore, February 7, 2007 (360info). High-tech materials no longer belong to elite skiers. Today, skiers of all levels can benefit from cutting-edge materials technology. Although the pandemic did not disrupt skiing holidays, it was a catalyst for the rapid development and implementation new materials into skis. A standard set of skis for rent with the words “LYT DONE RIGHT” on them is a clear indication of their speed. KARUBA. GRAPHENE’. The ski is made up of some of the most advanced individual materials. Carbon fibre is similar to those used in advanced spacecraft and aircraft. The ski is made from a low-density, stiff wood called Karuba (Paulownia species). Graphene is used for strength and weight. Graphene, an emerging material, was discovered in 2000. It is only one atomic thick and is used in a variety ranging from targeted drug delivery to electronics and semiconductors, energy, and membranes to create drinking water and ultralight sensors. These materials have been combined to create a ski that can be purchased or rented routinely by amateurs.
Alpine skiing is a popular winter activity, with millions of people taking part each year. Ski equipment is constantly changing and there is intense competition among ski manufacturers. Modern equipment is a game changer at all levels of skiing, from the professional to the Olympic level and down to the recreational level. Modern skis are lighter, more durable, and easier than ever. Olympic records have been broken and skiing has become a popular recreational activity. The improvements in equipment have led to shorter learning times, greater comfort, safety, and a more rewarding experience. As a result of the increasing demand for equipment, there is a greater need for new technologies and better material selections.
While the evolution of the alpine ski has been predictable over the years, recent developments in design and manufacturing technology have brought about more radical changes. Advanced materials are chosen to balance performance and protection against injury. Skiers’ weight, height, and ability to use the slopes are all factors that go into selecting the right skis. These are the questions that vendors should ask when renting or buying skis. Skiing performance is a function of both the user as well as the equipment. Bad equipment can hinder a great skier, while good equipment can lift the amateur. Performance is affected by many factors and they interact in complex ways. Skiing is a highly dynamic sport, with many forces acting on the skis simultaneously. The skis are constantly under pressure due to the speed and bodyweight.
The skier’s speed, turn radius, and terrain conditions also affect the pressure. The skier who is too heavy for the ski type chosen will cause ‘chatter’, poor edge control, especially in icy or hard snow conditions. Underloading, which is when the skier’s weight is too low for the ski, causes difficulties with turn initiation in soft and deep snow. The availability of materials was a major constraint in early ski design and construction. Wood was the obvious choice. It was readily available, its characteristics and properties were well known, and woodworking was a well-established method. Wood can be handcrafted, machined, and shaped. Wood, despite its apparent advantages has some drawbacks. Wood is anisotropic due to its fibrous structure. It is strong in certain directions but weaker in others. Wood is not able to withstand twisting forces, and can be sensitive to moisture and humidity, which can cause it to become heavier and more susceptible to warping and distortion.
Ski manufacturers and designers have moved away from monolithic wood structures. They now incorporate plastic bases, steel edges and aluminum alloy structural members. Performance improvements with new metal alloys, and new polymer combinations are often incremental, slow-paced, uncertain, expensive, and time-consuming. Manufacturers use hybrid materials to leapfrog the material selection and design process. This is why the tag ‘LYT DONE RICH: MULTILAYER CARBON’ was created. KARUBA. GRAPHENE’. Combining two or three existing materials allows for a superposition in their properties. Hybrids are used by ski designers to create new material performance capabilities that fill in gaps in desired material performance. Hybrid materials that have specific design-led property performance metrics can tailor flex and torsion to meet performance requirements.
The modern ski is now made up of structural members with stiff, strong skins that are separated by a lightweight core. These panels are known as sandwich panels. This construction allows for the ski’s flexibility to be customized while still being light-weight. Skier performance depends on how stiff the ski is. It will be difficult to control a ski that is too soft. Conversely, a ski with too stiff a design will not allow the user turn or perform manoeuvres.
An athlete can push the limits of performance by combining a reduced weight with tailored stiffness or strength. This will be even more apparent with the Beijing Olympics’ unique alpine downhill course already causing problems for athletes in the early days of competition. Modern ski hybrid materials may have more than 30 sub-components made from different types of material. They can be used to produce a gradual change in stiffness and other mechanical responses along the length of the ski. The design offers a combination of properties that offer performance and safety while keeping the weight down.
High technology is often associated with competitive and Olympic skiing. This means that the skis can perform well in extreme conditions, such as high speeds and difficult terrain. Even rental skis can now use hybrid technologies and the best materials. Modern hybrid skis are also measured on their ease of use for beginners and their contribution to the learning process. Beginners can quickly move up to intermediate and are generally better equipped to achieve expert status. This is a category that was once reserved only for a small number of recreational skiers. New materials and hybrid ski designs are changing the sport of skiing and will continue to do so. (360info.org). AMS
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