Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!

Delivering thrill rides and doing it safely is not easy task. The new Gyro Swing at a Swedish amusement park generates 4-G forces and moves at over 100 km/h, but the fun is under control thanks to high-power regenerative variable-speed drive

  • by ABB Ltd
  • February 8, 2019
  • Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!
    Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!
  • Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!
    Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!
  • Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!
    Driving Amusement Safely: The Thrill is Guaranteed!

For 140 thrill-filled seconds, screaming riders on the Loke Gyro Swing at Liseberg Amusement Park in Gothenburg, Sweden, get the exciting sensation of flying weightlessly through the air. The swinging pendulum motion and high speed of rotation thrusts 40 riders almost upside-down while simultaneously spinning them 360° around. Then, on the downswing, their bodies are subjected to massive 4-G forces (four times the Earth’s normal gravitational pull) while racing forward at over 100 km/h. When Loke finishes, the smiling, adrenaline-filled riders are clearly pleased.

“That was so incredibly fun!” comments an obviously ecstatic Anna Bjerne as she climbs off Loke. “It’s totally amazing when you are spinning at the top and your body lifts slightly off the seat. You feel thousands of butterflies running around your stomach! I’ve experienced many thrill rides before and, believe me, it doesn’t get any better than this.”

Delivering those thrills, and doing it safely, is no easy task. Although the technology used behind the scenes is something that most people never think about, ABB’s advanced drives play a critical role in keeping the rides moving, safely and efficiently.

The leader in the field of amusement park rides is Intamin Amusement Rides group, which builds a large number of such attractions worldwide. Its sister company Inautec GmbH of Switzerland is responsible for the fail-safe ride control system and supporting installation and commissioning of the rides. Stephan Siegrist, Inautec’s Engineering and Managing Director, is a big fan of the way that ABB drives keep everything under control to run the swing safely and accurately, while simultaneously simplifying the design.

Just one large motor, replacing several smaller ones

“This latest ABB drive – the ACS880 high-power regenerative drive with position control – perfectly supports our new design approach for the Gyro Swing,” says Siegrist. “Now we can reduce the motors we need in the ride to just one. So, by selecting a single higher-power motor, we have decreased the complexity of the system by eliminating multiple gearboxes and encoders. This both simplifies the engineering and improves the reliability.”

Safety is also a key area where Siegrist sees major benefits, since there can be absolutely no compromise in safety when people are riding the pendulum. ABB drives, which can easily be integrated in different control systems using safe I/Os or even PROFIsafe communications, are designed to support many different safety functions, meeting the highest reliability levels as defined by global safety standards.

These integrated safety features, explains Siegrist, make the ride easier to build, maintain and operate, and also help speed up the design process. “We get huge advantages with the high-level integrated safety functions since they accelerate our development and installation work, with no need for separate programming or wiring workarounds.”

Voted the best amusement park ride in Europe in 2018

Of course, the technology used behind the scenes means nothing if the ride doesn’t attract customers and produce thrills. “The riders love Loke!” exclaims Kenneth Berndtsson, Technical and Safety director at the park, which has 3.2 million visitors per year. “It is a super popular ride for us here at Liseberg.” In fact, Loke is so exciting that it was voted Europe’s ‘Best Thrill Ride 2018’ by the amusement park journal, Kirmes & Park Revue. 

Besides safely controlling the ride in action, the new drive design also provides precise positioning of the seats when the ride stops, allowing people to get on and off quickly. This helps keep the waiting lines short and the park guests happy. Aided by the ACS880 drive’s built in motion-control software, the pendulum stops in the required position every time, precisely and rapidly, thus giving Liseberg further benefits in terms of money. “The tight position control speeds up the process of getting riders on and off,” explains Berndtsson, “and that means more income for the park.”

Capturing energy, instead of wasting it

Another positive result of using the ABB regenerative drive is energy savings which, Berndtsson says, is achieved by feeding the braking energy back to the supply network as the ride slows down. “Now we have a simpler system and, for each ride cycle, we put back 1.4 kWh of electricity to the grid. This saves us money and helps meet our sustainability goals as well.”

The Gyro Swing story at Liseberg is a good example of the key role ABB drives often play, behind the scenes, as a supporting actor in everyday activities, points out Aleksandar Velimirovic, ABB’s Key Account Sales Engineer: “In this case the three main actors are the ride manufacturer, the amusement park, and the rider. The manufacturer got a simple way to achieve safe and reliable operation with less equipment. The park got a ride that visitors love and successfully cuts waiting times as it moves quickly into position. And the riders, quite simply, get the thrill of their lives.”

Graduated in political sciences and international relations in Paris, Anis joined the team in early 2019. Editor for IEN Europe and the new digital magazine AI IEN, he is a new tech enthusiast. Also passionate about sports, music, cultures and languages. 

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