A flywheel launch is a launch which powers a roller coaster train using energy from a flywheel. The mechanism works by spinning a large flywheel at high speeds which is attached to a cable that propels the roller coaster train forward. Flywheel launches are used on some Anton Schwarzkopf designed shuttle loop coasters and Zamperla Motocoasters.
Flywheel Launch – Zamperela Motocoasters
Unlike Velocity at Flamingo Land which is manufactured by Vekoma and uses a hydraulic launch, MotoCoasters manufactured by Zamperela use a flywheel launch. Intamin who also manufacture a MotoCoaster model use drive tyres to launch their trains. Motocoaster trains normally feature individual seating for 12 passengers in rows of 2 with each seat being themed as either a Motorcycle, horse or even a jet ski. The rides also feature starting lights and a finish line to give the impression that you are partaking in a race, the compact layout features a series of sloping twists and turns without any big drops or inversions.
Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop
The Schwarzkopf shuttle loop originally used a weight-drop to power its catapult launch system. One of the most famous Shuttle Loops to use a weight drop launch was Thunder Looper at Alton Towers in the UK. More “recent” versions of Schwarzkopf shuttle loops used a flywheel to power its launch instead of a weight-drop.
How a Flywheel Launch is Configured
A motor is linked via a belt and a slipping clutch with the flywheel. The flywheel is connected to a clutch and a gearbox (which works as a speed reducer), to the shaft of the front rope-pulley. A computer system controls the clutch associated with the front rope-pulley as well as the brake and an ancillary motor which are both coupled with the rear rope-pulley.
How a Flywheel Launch Works
When the carriage or “pusher” is positioned behind the roller coaster train the computer system deactivates the station brake and activates the clutch to couple the continuously rotating flywheel with the front rope-pulley. Once linked to the spinning flywheel, the “pusher” and roller coaster train start to accelerate. A sensor monitors the speed of the flywheel and when it reduces to 872rpm the clutch slips. Once the clutch is deactivated, the “pusher” is stopped by a brake with the force of the acceleration propelling the roller coaster train around the track. The brake is released and the motor moves the “pusher” back into the station where it is held until the roller coaster train returns. Once the passengers have departed and the next set of passengers boarded the train, the brake is released and the motor is briefly energized to re-establish the launching position. By this time, the continuously operating main drive motor has restored the flywheel to its normal rotary speed ready to repeat the process.
Anton Schwarzkopf – A man ahead of his time
The duration of acceleration is dependent on the pressure given to the clutch. The more pressure that is given, the quicker the launch. When designing the flywheel mechanism in 1977, Anton Schwarzkopf referred to the possibility of developing a starting mechanism, driven by linear-motor a technology, which has only been introduced on roller coaster rides in recent years demonstrating how far he was ahead of his time.