I’m a huge roller coaster fan and even have a sister blog dedicated to Busch Gardens. One of the more recent advances in roller coaster technology has been the use of magnetic launches as opposed to the old school lift hill (think click, click, click up the hill). To be fair launch does go back 50+ years with examples like the Tidal Wave coaster I used to ride at Six Flags Great America as a kid. This defunct ride actually used a falling weight and pulley system to launch the train with a deafening “clank” as the weight hit bottom! One of my personal current favorite launch coasters in Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa where the launches are used to mimic the acceleration and movements of a cheetah.
The newest launches are based on magnets. The theory is pretty simple, you use the attractive/repulsive forces of magnets to push and pull a train to rapidly accelerate it. In practice this takes tons of electricity and precision timing to power the electromagnets that produce the effect. I’ve been watching YouTube videos from Amusement Labs for a while now and their content is amazing. They do an awesome job of explaining how this works for two of the newest coasters, Velocicoaster at Universal and Guardians of the Galaxy at EPCOT. What’s even cooler is that they use 3D printing to do it and to top it off they even have their model free for download and printing! Their model shows how this complex dance of electrons comes together to make magnetic forces and actually launch a coaster.
The next time you’re out at an amusement park hopefully you can better understand the awesome engineering it takes to make a modern theme park attraction. Thanks so much to Amusement Labs for helping educate the public. Please check them out on YouTube or Twitter. I’ve also included two of their LSM (Linear Synchronous Motor) launch based videos here.