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News

High strength steel helps skiers take flight

SSAB Tunnpl : 24 October, 2002  (New Product)
MultiCat, a new multifunction tool for piste preparation machines and snow vehicles in Alpine environments, is distinguished by its high precision, long reach and wide range of applications. The system opens up new opportunities to build exciting ski slopes, advanced jumps, and slopes for the new skiing disciplines skicross and boardercross.
MultiCat, a new multifunction tool for piste preparation machines and snow vehicles in Alpine environments, is distinguished by its high precision, long reach and wide range of applications. The system opens up new opportunities to build exciting ski slopes, advanced jumps, and slopes for the new skiing disciplines skicross and boardercross.

The new multitool can also be used in rescue operations and for handling equipment and material in Arctic climates. The tool system is made of high strength steel, which was a decisive element in the design solution. MultiCat, developed by the Swedish company Mekano i Malung AB, has received an honourable mention in the 2002 Swedish Steel Prize design contest.

The idea for MultiCat was spawned five years ago by the rapid increase in snowboarding and skicross.

'The need for slopes with jumps of various heights, tight velodrome curves and halfpipes simply exploded,' says Ulf Thors, development head for MultiCat at Mekano i Malung AB. 'Traditional piste preparation machines had a fairly limited capacity. It took a lot of manual work to obtain the right shape for slopes, halfpipes and curves, which ended up being costly and time-consuming.'

The solution was a multifunction tool consisting of a long, narrow sled-borne crane unit with interchangeable tools. The unit is connected to a piste machine and the interchangeable tools are subsequently fitted to the crane. Seven tools can be attached at present, a snow blower, a lift cage, an adjustable pipe cutter, a grip hook, a lifting hook, a bucket and a transport container.

'The range of tools is increasing, however,' continues Mr Thors. 'There's a constant flow of suggestions and ideas for areas of application and functions.'

There are great opportunities, and MultiCat is being tested at different locations worldwide. The system will enable skiing centres to build completely new types of slopes. MultiCat's versatility is explained by a light, sturdy design which can withstand extreme wear irrespective of temperature. One of the secrets behind the multitool system is the designers' use of high strength steel for all of the system's structural elements.

'The strength of the material gives a light, powerful design, as well as durable tools which can withstand severe wear,' explains Mr Thors. 'The crane has a thirteen-metre reach and a very high degree of precision. Tasks previously out of reach can therefore now be completed. The vehicle, moreover, does not need to be moved. Each piste preparation machine can accordingly be used for varying tasks and work can be carried out more efficiently.'

While MultiCat is designed primarily to meet the needs of skiing centres, other users are also very interested in the system. Arctic researchers have discovered the opportunities provided by MultiCat for handling objects such as oil barrels, and mountain rescue teams can use it to quickly remove trees blown down in storms and to carry out work after avalanches.

The tools are attached by a quick-release coupling, and tool changeovers take no more than five minutes. The operator can control the crane and the tools wirelessly through a remote control while standing next to the vehicle. He or she can therefore stand very close to the jumps and halfpipes, ensuring that they are being correctly prepared. The wireless system also means there is no risk of cables getting tangled up.
'The crane's long reach also makes it easier to rescue stranded skiers,' continues Mr Thors. 'The lift cage, used when working on chairlift support poles, can be used to rescue people from damaged chairlifts, the container to transport rescue equipment, and the bucket for rescue work following avalanches.'

MultiCat is arousing great international interest.
'The system is the only one of its kind,' asserts Mr Thors. 'MultiCat is patented for no fewer than eighteen different features. In addition, we have earned CE labelling and personal safety approval from Det Norske Veritas, the Norwegian risk management foundation. There are exacting requirements for this type of equipment.'
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