As far as overall ride technology, I would say you'd have to go with the hydraulic launch. The 4-D might be a "higher" technology, but as far as "last" or "latest" there hasn't been a 4-D (pending all '05 announcements) built since '01, but we have 4 new hydraulic launch rockets being built for '05 of various heights and speeds.
For design techniques, who knows - 3-D modeling? Simulation programs? I'm sure that they're at the forefront of testing any systems to evaluate dynamic structures. I would say one of the things that you could confirm would be that new "4D" scheduling tool Disney came out with for Everest. Pretty cool combination of Primavera and 3D models/renderings. I'm sure the other companies are/will be using something similar on upcoming projects.
Many dark rides -- Disney's Haunted Mansion is a good example -- have long utilized the "4D" technology of using an extra rail to rotate the passenger vehicle as it moves along a track. It just took Arrow a while to apply it to coaster technology.
I wouldn't say that anything is outright "new" as of the last few years, but the fact that B&M is now using magnetic brakes sure puts it firmly in the category of "established."
I spoke with a guy that maintains a couple of B&M rides at a particular park, and he said that for the most part there isn't a lot of upkeep on those rides. The brass plates that line the center beam of the cars don't even need to be replaced that frequently, and that's where the real brake wear-and-tear is. Just imagine how infrequent their replacement will be now that they don't have to work as hard.
Whatever, the "latest" technology is, is probably something that hasn't been built into a complete coaster yet. IE. The technologies for the frequent faller and S&S squirrel designs. There are probably more that haven't been made public yet too.
I think what Antuan was talking about is that Intamin has developed a new kind of wood technology that is supposed to be smooth, for whatever reason. You can find it on Balderdash, not sure what country though. There's a brief description on Intamin's web site. You can find it here at http://www.intaminworldwide.com/i_products_roller.htm
Not sure how to post links. I also think that it is assembled in sections already put together.
***edited for spelling *** Edited 12/2/2004 6:48:57 PM UTC by Coasterbuzzer***
The laminated beam has been around much longer than LIM/LSM technology, my understanding is that there is NOTHING new about the "new" Intamin woodies. At first they had some of us (me included...;)) thinking that there might be something different about the steel plates or their attachment to the track bed, but I've not seen or heard anything to confirm that...for ALL the hype, it seems that all Intamin has done is to replace the *old-fashioned* 7-layers of 2x6 trackwork with lam-beams, like most of us have at home supporting our garage doors, etc....(OK, garage door headers typically used 2x10s or 2x12s nailed together, but the application is quite similar)...
If anyone knows any different from what I've posted about this, PLEASE enlighten a fellow wood-coaster junkie...
The Stengel prefab wooden coasters (its a Stengel patent as far as I know) are made of pieces like a steel coaster. Say beam 100052 supporting the third hill needs replacement... park maintenance orders beam 100052 from the wooden mill who did the pieces... and voila, piece 100052 arrives and they install it.
I think the 3 things that have caused the very, very smooth rides on the 3 prefab woodies are:
1-the trains. They use the same wheels, assemblies and even seats as the Intamin steel hypers.
3-Stengel designs them like steel coasters its seems
On a separate note, a friend who went to Liseberg spoke with the park director. What he said is that after they opted to go with the prefab track for the peace of mind in the maintenance aspect... they told GCI that and GCI jokingly answered: well, you could build 3 times our coaster for the price of the prefab one! *** Edited 12/3/2004 3:46:53 AM UTC by Absimilliard***
I think the "special" thing about the intamin prefab wood is that its CNC routed for sure and then almost certainly CNC pressed/bent. Makes for great tolerances. Thats also why its super-easy to replace the pieces. Load program XYZ123 into the CNC track line and viola!
But it's STILL basically a lam-beam cut to the proper length and fitted, just like they'd have done "in the good ol' days" by cutting 2x6s to length and nailing them together...or am I missing something?
We used to "special order" lam-beams for custom homes all the time, they'd get milled and shipped to us *per specs*....this IS the same thing, I'm almost certain...of course, since it's MILLED lumber the tolerances can be MUCH more strict than if it were "factory lumber", which would help account for the smoother ride...but it's not like they've revolutionized the industry with this or anything....IMO....ymmv....yadda yadda...;)