How the heck do they bend track accurately?

Wednesday, October 15, 2003 3:47 PM
This is what they use; http://schwarzkopf.coaster.net/pictures/ES/anton-BHS02-pipebender.JPG That is good old Anton (R.I.P) by his baby.

That machine is probably too old by today's standards. I've seen pics of Arrow's plants - several machines. Dunno where to find the pics.

I'm absolutely astounded at Intamin's, B&M's & any relevant manufacturer's track. Especially heartline track. How do they get the exact curve profiles they want??

My theory is they are able to rotate the pipe as they bend it or am I wrong? Of course it's all computerised from CAD drawings.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 4:25 AM
That's a rail bender, that's probably just like what all other manufacturers use. They might have some cimputer-driven machines now, but the one in that pic built some excellent coasters, so it isn't necessary. ;)

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 5:04 AM
Intamin won't even let people in their plant to see their stuff. While I'm sure it requires some specialization, the fact that a plant in Southern Ohio does it for B&M leads me to believe it's not that difficult with the right gear.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 5:20 AM
I wonder if parts are hydroformed, like the frames on a few new cars and trucks. That is claimed to be very effective when accuracy is an issue, although I'm not sure if it works for curves.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 5:33 AM
Rob,

Due to the custom nature of coasters, I doubt hydroforming would be useful. Hydroforming requires specific dies for the shape you are trying to create. Since frame rails don't change form truck to truck, you only need one or two sets of dies (depending on your production volume). The dies are always the most expensive part of any metal forming operation. The only way you could recover your investment on a coaster is if you made multiple copies of the same design.

All,

for those of you unfamiliar with "hydroforming", the process involves clamping a steel tube inside a shaped cavity (the Die), and then injecting water inside the tube at such a high pressure that the steel tube literally blows up like a balloon, confrming to the shape of the die around it.

Later,
EV
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"Everybody has desperate days of quiet questioning.
Everybody has times when they feel like they don't fit in."
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Thursday, October 16, 2003 5:47 AM
I wasn't sure if hydroforming required a die (I have no idea how else it could have been done, though). I guess that would work on straight sections of track for things like the lift hill and brake runs, but those parts of a coaster would probably require the least amount of accuracy in track bending, hence making hydroforming pointless.

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 7:24 AM
Track bending can't be all that uncommon...otherwise all the railroads in this country would be completely straight. ;)

If they can do it with a solid rail, a hollow tube can't be all that difficult. I'm sure the machinerey isn't all that different. Looks to me like feeding a rail between three wheels that can be adjusted to affect the curve. Pretty simple stuff.


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"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:27 AM
janfrederick, I don't think the original poster couldn't understand this, more the logistics behind getting the perfect flowing curve.

I think Belgian has been in the Vekoma factory too, but they use a machine similar to the one linked in the first post. As janfrederick guesses, it is done by feeding the pipe through the machine with rollers that push the rail into the curve. I suspect that this is all computer controlled now.

The backbone has always interested me, especially on B&M rides as they look very intricate, especially on curves like heartlines and corkscrews. Vekoma's backbone is done similarly to the actual rails, but not as acurately. I remember them saying that they feed it through a bit, bend it, feed it through a bit more and bend it again - far less acurate than the continual rolling/bending of the rails. How are the curved B&M backbones done as they're very complex shapes (example)

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:36 AM
Didn't they show Morgan's track bending machinery on a Discovery Channel show awhile back?

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My CampusFish Blog

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:47 AM
Alas it is more Science than Art I'm afraid. If you look in the section under Metallurgy at your local library you'll notice that there are whole volumes dedicated to the science of bending and shaping of metals. By plugging in variables into an equation you can know how much force it will take, how far you can deform the material, and how many passes through the machine you will need to achieve the desired shape.

As for B&M Backbones, they are made from plate steel not tubular steel. But it would be interesting to learn whether they are manufactured by hand or by machine.

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Kevin Stone
NoLimits Roller Coaster Simulator
http://www.nolimitscoaster.de

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:48 AM
Marcus: You make good points... I wonder how it was done before it was computer-controlled? It must have taken a lot of patience and a steady pair of hands to get those curves just right!

Regarding the B&M spine... I could be mistaken, but aren't the spines welded at the corners? That would indicated four pieces of steel, bent separately, then fused together. I don't see how it could be done any other way, since it would probably be impossible to put a curve in a four-sided tube.

Edit: I see Phyter beat me to it!

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-Rob
A.C.E. member since 1990
Posting @ Coasterbuzz since 2000
E.C.C. member since 2002
*** This post was edited by Rob Ascough 10/16/2003 1:49:49 PM ***

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 9:59 AM
Rob, I think you're right. Looks like they are composed of triangular pieces. I'd imagine they are all cut using a computerized cutter and then welded together.

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"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 10:56 AM
Does the tube steel have to be heated before it passes through the track bending machine?
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Thursday, October 16, 2003 11:24 AM
Several notes:

Bending railroad rails is easier than bending coaster track. Each rail piece usually has just a single large radius in one plane. Coaster track typically has a much tighter radius to the bends and the plane of the bend often changes within one piece of steel. Solid rails are easier to bend than tubes. You don't have to worry about them buckling.

The triangular panels that you see on B&M spine are not separate panels welded. The lines are points at which the plate used to make the spine is bent to shape. Of course there are some welds as the sheets of steel are only so big.

I understand that most of the track bending done today is computer controlled in a CAD CAM environment. In other words the design is done on a computer, and the information is then fed into a computer that bends the required pieces. Also the rolling machines usually have rollers that are contoured to fit the outside of the pipe.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 11:32 AM
True true...must have forgotten about that 3rd dimension or something. ;)

The picture, however, did not seem to show any additional machinery for turning the tube. Done by hand in the past? Can the rollers' pitch be altered slightly to accomplish this?

The picture does illustrate the contoured rollers that you speak of. They kinda look like Schwartzkoph coaster wheels. :)

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"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 12:31 PM
Yeah, if bending railroad track is so easy, why did I recently see a train fly off in my town on CNN?

NOTE: j-o-k-e. I know the track bending wasn't a factor to the train's performance in that crash. Just a simple human error caused it.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 12:33 PM
Also, why didn't the train hit Steve Bartman?

Seriously, that was a joke. I sincerely hope he and his family will not be harmed. But, come on. How could you not see Alou coming?

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Well, I used to be able to see TTD from my house, then I moved.
Life's not fair.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 2:28 PM
So do they anneal the metal to make it bend easier before passing it through the machine? I am not as familiar with ferrous metals as I am non-ferrous but I would guess that they would have to.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 2:53 PM
Just as a sidenote... railroad tracks aren't 'bent' anymore per se. Back in the day, the track came in 40 foot straight segments bolted together. Today, they are rolled into quarter-mile long segments. The segments are so long they bend into place right away. In fact, they're loaded onto a string of flat cars, which enable the track to bend as the train they're on goes through curves.

And yes. the B&M spines are plates bent into shape. :)

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Is that a Q-bot in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

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Thursday, October 16, 2003 7:33 PM
I bend metal tube at work, albeit at a much smaller level, a couple of inches thick vs 6 but it is not hard to do at all really.

You can do anythign with hydraulics.

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