Most people don’t have science on their minds at an amusement park. They’re more focused on enjoying the thrills of the sometimes death-defying rides. Yet amusement parks are actually excellent places to see science and engineering at work. This is especially true of hydraulics and pneumatics, which are used to generate power and provide cushioning for all kinds of rides. One excellent example of pneumatics in action can be experienced at Splash Mountain in Disneyland.
Splash Mountain is a favorite ride at Disneyland consisting of a fast and furious ride through a maze of waterways in a floating fiberglass log. The biggest drop in the ride is 52.5 feet long. By the end of this 47-degree plunge the log has reached top speeds of about 40 miles per hour. The trick is that after reaching the bottom, the log must quickly decelerate to continue on its journey. Using traditional brakes with traditional cylinders to activate them would concentrate forces where each cylinder was attached and create a bumpy ride. Using pneumatics, on the other hand, creates a smooth and safe landing for the ride.
In Splash Mountain’s pneumatic system, two 40-foot submerged brake pads are actuated by 8 air bags in order to slow the ride. These air bags fill with pressurized air as the log reaches the bottom of the ride, causing them to rise and take the submerged brake pads with them. The brake pads then touch the underside of the log, producing friction and slowing the ride. The biggest advantages of this system are that the resulting force is applied evenly for a smooth ride, and also that there is no sliding motion that would cause component wear. This last aspect is very important in an amusement park setting where the pneumatic system is going to get activated thousands of times per day.
Of course not all pneumatic systems are used for such fun applications as Splash Mountain or other amusement park rides. But if you rely on a pneumatic system for the success of your business, it will certainly be very exciting to you. At Bernell Hydraulics, we can help with all aspects of pneumatic systems from design to repair and maintenance. Please contact us today to learn more about our services or to order pneumatic hoses or other components for your equipment.