Monday | 05 April, 2010 | 3:35 am

Going for the gold

By Lisa Rummler

April 2010 - For two weeks in February, people everywhere watched the world's best athletes compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics. They cheered when their countrymen won medals, and they felt a collective sense of disappointment when the gold, silver and bronze eluded them. Amid the excitement of the athletic events, something spectators might not have noticed was the craftsmanship that went into two of the most complex structures at the games: the mountainside K95 and K125 ski jump structures.

Fabricated and erected by Dynamic Structures Ltd., Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, the structures were 95 meters and 125 meters long, respectively.

The amount of planning and work that went into the structures, however, dwarfed their actual size, according to David Halliday, president of Dynamic Structures.

Start to finish
Dynamic Structures bid for the ski jump project in late 2006, and the fabrication work began in March 2007.

"The 650-ton tubular, truss-type structure had to be built under tolerances lower than 5 millimeters, using extremely strict welding standards and maintaining the ski jump profiles required by [the] International Ski Federation," according to a press release. "Forming, fabricating and welding tubular trusses 95 and 125 meters long, 8 meters wide and 4 meters high under those tolerances were already very demanding, but building them flexible enough to allow for transportation and assembling on a remote and rugged location was a genuine challenge."

Sum of its parts
The ski jumps are made of 300W and 350W carbon steel, as well as hollow structural steel tubing and pipe ranging from 6 inches to 24 inches.

"There was really nothing desperately challenging, in terms of the material itself," says Halliday. "A lot of the challenges were more into the actual fabrication and the details. Mainly, the challenge had to do with the welding and some of the connection details."

The structures required a great deal of full-penetration welds, according to Halliday, which required a correspondingly wide range of tests.

"We spend a lot of time trying to come up with details that are complementary to the fabrication process so that we make sure that we have a quality product in the end," he says. "As I said, there were a lot of full-penetration welds, and getting backing bars in was very challenging."

Travel times
In addition to the complexities associated with the manufacturing process, Dynamic Structures faced the immense task of getting the ski jumps to Whistler Olympic Park, about 200 kilometers north of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.

"The structure had to to be broken down into components for shipping, so we built the components as large as possible, allowing us to concentrate the effort in the shop, making sure we had the highest quality and not pass a lot of labor and welding into the field," says Halliday.

About 10 components, each about 24 feet wide and weighing about 80 tons, were shipped by truck and barge. In regard to the former, part of a highway had to be closed down.

"And once we got them to the site, getting them up the mountainside and into position was another challenge because they had to be taken up by truck," says Halliday. "We had special lifting equipment at the site to lift the components and maneuver them in a very, very tight area."

Success stories
Ultimately, all the work and planning paid off--the Olympic ski jumps were successfully erected in the Whistler Mountains. They will remain there for permanent use as part of the 2010 Olympic legacy program.

And although Dynamic Structures takes a great deal of pride in this project, it is far from the only one the company has successfully completed.

"One of the reasons we were selected [for the Olympic ski jumps] is because we do a lot of very complex steel fabrication for major rides at theme parks, so that knowledge was implanted back into the ski jumps," says Halliday. "[We are also] specialists in designing and building large telescopes. Presently, we are working on the design of the world's largest optical telescope, which is a $1 billion project.

"We also have in-house ability to be able to look at manufacturing procedures and design, so we are normally a company that does cradle to grave, in terms of design build. That gives us a distinct advantage when looking at complex structures because we really understand the engineering that goes behind them and how we can help other engineers come up with solutions that are cost-effective and practical." MM

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