THE IDEA FOR THE SKIS
Posted on January 11, 2018
We have gained some experience over the last few years working with a metal of unusual properties called nitinol. Nitinol is used in many medical applications, where its temperature dependent phase and shape change characteristics are quite useful. Nitinol behaves very differently at different temperatures and can shift from one phase to the other very rapidly, once the transition temperature is reached. This gives it remarkable properties. In medical applications, nitinol is used to make arterial stents, and intravascular filters among other applications. These stents are very sophisticated 3D meshes that are very neatly folded to be delivered to the blood vessels via an intravenous catheter system. They are kept neatly folded, but once delivered to the right location inside the blood vessel and exposed to body temperature, they change configuration and shape, opening the stent and restoring blood flow to an occluded heart vessel, or reinforcing a damaged artery, or deploying a venous filter to prevent clots from making their way to the lungs. This ability to change phase and shape is typical of the memory metal alloy family, of which nitinol is a part of.
One day over some beers and barbecue and talking about skiing, we thought that it would be great if we could have a ski that could be used to ski on the different snow types and conditions that one encounters in the east coast in a single day. Naturally, Nitinol came to mind, and for a while we joked around with the idea of a pair of shape shifting skis but realized that while we could potentially do that, it would be best just to keep the same shape of the ski but change its material properties and stiffness as needed. That is, design a ski that allows the user to go from a standard ski to a stiffer one as needed and vice versa. As it turns out, we could use our experience with Nitinol to bring this concept to reality.
We set up an independent research program using our little free time, working at home on our computers with various designs using finite element modeling to determine the ideal amount of nitinol and its distributions within a ski to induce relevant changes in stiffness. It took about three years just to have enough real data to file a patent application, and during the last year we have been able to develop our first-generation prototype that will be the precursor to our first commercially available product for the 2018-2019 season.