This blog post is going to introduce you to a new segment that I am doing on the blog. It's called "Ask the Engineering Student". The goal of this is so I can answer ANY questions about amusement parks or roller coasters that one might have. You can ask me for opinions, how something works, or I can even explain something technological if you do not understand!
Currently, I am enrolled at University at Buffalo for mechanical engineering, which I hope to get a bachelor's degree in. I graduated from high school majoring in technology and mathematics, so through that and years of experience in the industry, I already have a lot of knowledge under my belt.
If you have any questions please email me at email@example.com or use the "contact" button above. I will try to answer as many questions as possible as long as I have the time and they follow these rules:
1) Please be courteous and kind when asking a question. I am taking time out of my day to do this for all of you!
2) Please check if a question has already been answered. I will not respond to repeats!
3) Only questions about coasters or parks will be answered. The rest will be addressed personally or at a later time.
4) If your question is good enough, it may be featured on a future podcast.
Today I will focus on a question that I received a few days ago:
What specifically is wrong with Lightning Rod that it cannot open fully? Will these issues be able to be corrected in the future?- Dave from Missouri
That's a tough, but good question Dave! Thanks for reading the site.
Lightning Rod has had a range of issues that have hampered it from operating full-time yet. Some have been publicly expressed by the park, and some have not. Many people have argued that it's because Lightning Rod is a wooden coaster, mixed with new launch technology, but that is only semi-true.
While it is "technically" a wooden coaster, Topper Track helps the ride operate more like a smooth steel coaster. Plus, the launch system is an LSM launch, which has been done successfully for years on coasters. From what I've heard though, the launch system has a NEW form of power distribution from a company who has never built a launch before.
For most parks, flywheels are used to preserve power for an LSM launch. Without saving up the power, the launch would pull too much power off the grid causing a "brown out" for other businesses and homes. These large, steel spinning wheels slowly build up energy and release it when the LSMs need it. Here is a picture of Thunderbird at Holiday World's flywheel:
However, Lightning Rod does not use a flywheel. It uses a series of capacitors to save up the energy, almost like a battery, then releases it to launch a train. The launch system was built by Velocity Magnets, who already builds magnetic brakes for the RMCs and many other coasters. Because it is their first launch, and a new power system never tried before, that could be causing many issues.
Here is the patent: http://www.freshpatents.com/-dt20150402ptan20150091478.php
I am no electronics expert, but basically, the power is built up, saved in the capacitors, and then released. This allows parks on a small power grid to create launches without affecting the system. Electronics generally give off a lot of heat, but this system still needs some tinkering and has even caused one of the lift motors on the ride to start smoking.
The issues related to this new launch system, controls not agreeing, and a recall on restraint cylinders have all contributed the ride to be closed.