Business Resources - Project Development - July 2018

EXTREME ENGINEERING

Extreme Engineering created transportation trailers for Icon Aircraft's A5 amphibious craft. (Credit: Extreme Engineering)

Inside Out

Attractions manufacturers and suppliers capitalize on working outside the industry

by Keith Miller

Attraction manufacturers and suppliers have long built a reputation for their innovative ideas, thoughtful development processes, and use of state-of-the-art technology. These skill sets have caught the attention of companies from other industries looking to profit from the specialized talents of attractions manufacturers and suppliers. Funworld looks at how the efforts of three companies—Extreme Engineering, Severn Lamb, and Christie Digital Systems—are developing clientele from across diverse industries.

Extreme Engineering Glides into the Aviation Business

Extreme Engineering (www.extremeengineering.com) in Athens, Texas, creates attractions that include amusement park rides, ziplines, and rock-climbing walls. But a significant portion of the company’s business comes from outside the attractions industry, where Extreme Engineering has done work for NASA, the military, and the oil and gas industry. 

“For many years we’ve done non-attractions work, and in fact, our first work was building things in health and fitness for the Extreme Games (i.e., X Games), which is how we got our name,” explains Jeff Wilson, Extreme Engineering’s CEO. “We solve fundamental physics problems and then move on.” 

The company reports more than 50 percent of its work is in emerging design, efforts that support suppliers inside and outside of the attractions industry. The firm’s latest work away from attractions involves a major contract awarded earlier this year by Icon Aircraft, which produces light sport aircraft (small private aircraft). Its signature product is the Icon A5, an amphibious aircraft that can be easily transported and stored. Featuring folding wings, the A5 can be towed to a destination before flight. 

Wilson says Icon Aircraft was in desperate need of an engineering and fabrication firm to provide an advanced transport trailer that would tow and store the A5. The company was referred to the attractions industry due to its strict safety standards, innovation, and ASTM manufacturing guidelines.

“As their engineering team finished work on a trailer design, we then proceeded from their recipe and made changes to lower the cost and make it better,” Wilson says. “The only thing it has in common with a trailer is that it has wheels. It’s submergible, it hydraulically lifts in the air for servicing the aircraft, and it has self-applying brakes.”

Benefits and Challenges of Non-Attractions Work

Executives from three companies that provide different products and services to the attractions industry comment on the advantages and challenges of engaging in work outside our business: 

“It allows us to transfer knowledge gained from various industries and apply them to each other. The commonality for us is moving people, be it in the attractions industry or another. It’s great to be able to expand our understanding and these benefits with our clients.” 

—Patrick Lamb, managing director, Severn Lamb

“There is definitely a lot of crossover. The attractions industry has been benefiting from high-frame-rate projection for a very long time, but it wasn’t until recently that we’ve begun seeing other industries begin to adopt frame rates over 60Hz and discover the benefits of high frame rate and high resolution.” 

—Curtis Lingard, senior project manager, Christie Digital Systems

“The caution, the quality, and the attention to detail are common to all these industries.The manuals have to be clear, and the stickers have to be clear.” 

—Jeff Wilson, CEO, Extreme Engineering

Icon awarded Extreme Engineering a contract to build up to 1,800 transport trailers utilizing both aeronautical and attraction design principles. 

“The aircraft trailer requires electro-hydraulic devices and has an onboard computer, like many rides,” Wilson notes. “It better be good at what it does because it’s carrying a $400,000 aircraft.”

From its cross-industry work, Extreme Engineering has learned that what’s important in one industry isn’t always important in another; each often has its own crucial standards that must be followed. In the case of aviation companies like Icon Aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States plays a large role, whereas in the case of the A5 transport trailer, its standards fall under the U.S. Department of Transportation.

As for how Extreme Engineering markets itself outside of the attractions industry, Wilson says, “That’s a huge challenge because you can be spread so thin you become invisible. For us, the best way is through A&E (architectural and engineering) firms. We speak engineering to them, and it works well in developing relationships. That’s who we sell ourselves to.”   

SEVERN LAMB

Outside the attractions industry, Severn Lamb manufactures products ranging from tracked and trackless trains to ultra light rails and leisure monorails. (Credit: Severn Lamb)

Severn Lamb Moves People Around the World

For more than 60 years, Severn Lamb (www.severn-lamb.com), headquartered in Alcester, England, has provided top-of-the-line engineering and manufacturing in light urban, leisure, and resort transportation. The company has built recognizable train engines, parade vehicles, and paddlewheel boats for theme parks around the world. The company’s work outside the attractions industry can vary greatly year to year, but sometimes accounts for 50 percent of its business. Its products include both tracked and trackless trains, ultra light rail, period replica vehicles, leisure monorails, and special-purpose vehicles. 

“This year has seen us deliver a large train for use on a 33-kilometer heritage railway line in northern Portugal,” says Patrick Lamb, the company’s managing director. “The beautiful engine pulls three enclosed coaches, each fitted with HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), Wi-Fi, power sockets, and tables allowing guests to enjoy the Portuguese countryside while being able to move into the galley coach, which is fitted out with a lounge bar, toilets, and fully fitted kitchen.”

He says Severn Lamb also worked on a project in which it modified one of its traditional and relatively slow-speed trains into a medium-speed light urban commuter train. This involved a group-up design, including the development of complete diesel-electric drive-train bogies for speeds up to 60 kph for 120 passengers. Lamb notes there are commonalities between its attractions and non-attractions work.

“Although we work across different industries, the one thing that ties them together is that our projects are typically related to moving people in a leisure environment. Therefore, often the principles are the same or similar,” Lamb says.

To get the word out about its non-attractions work, Lamb says his company looks for appropriate magazines, exhibitions, and networking events, promoting its product range and achievements. “This in itself can be a challenge given the diverse and multitude of sectors that we touch outside of the attractions industry,” he says. 

CHRISTIE DIGITAL SYSTEMS

Christie Digital Systems uses projections mapping technologies to turn sports arenas into canvases for video and graphics. (Credit: Christie Digital Systems)

Christie Digital Systems Lights Up Various Industries

Like Extreme Engineering and Severn Lamb, Christie Digital Systems (www.christiedigital.com) earns a significant portion of its business from other industries. From providing display walls for energy, traffic, and telecommunications controls rooms, to cinema theater displays, to visual solutions for education and training environments, Christie serves a wide-ranging audio/visual clientele.

With a head office in Cypress, California, and engineering and manufacturing facilities in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and Shenzhen, China, the company has installed more than 100,000 projection solutions for various industries worldwide. Some of its recent projects include arena projection mapping for both the University of Florida Gators and the Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey team and the deployment of the Christie Solaria Series of DLP cinema projectors across the 220 screens of Kinoplex, Brazil’s largest locally owned theater chain.

“Each of the markets that Christie serves brings its own set of unique requirements, but the attractions industry tends to push boundaries beyond that of what a typical application would,” says Curtis Lingard, Christie Digital Systems’ senior project manager. “This allows Christie the opportunity to develop and perfect advanced technologies that, in time, migrate to other industries as they mature.” 

He adds that by leveraging core technologies across platform-based design and manufacturing for multiple industries, the company achieves economies of scale that bring cutting-edge technology at an affordable price to all of its clients. 

But he says there are also challenges, not the least of which is coordinating production schedules and inventories to meet demand. 

“Aligning development schedules requires a lot of coordination and collaboration,” Lingard reveals. “We often discuss a vision of the end result of what is wanted very early on in order to begin working together to develop new solutions.”

Lingard admits scheduling can be challenging with several projects across multiple industries, but maintains Christie Digital Systems is ready for the challenge.