Florian Schwalt was the chief engineer behind the development of the new TR8 TechnoAlpin fan gun. Together with his team, he worked on simplifying the snow production process and with the TR8, has ultimately revolutionized snow production. In the interview, Florian Schwalt provided an insight into the emergence of the new innovation from TechnoAlpin.
The basic idea behind the development of the TR8 was to produce a new fan gun in the medium performance range, with a moderate speed and sturdy construction, which has increased resistance during unbalanced operation and with a less distracting operating noise.
There are always three main objectives every time a snow gun is redesigned: Firstly, the snow performance should be maximized. For us, this means manufacturing optimum snow quality at every temperature range, especially limit temperatures.
Secondly, it is important to improve the energy efficiency of a snow gun. This means producing as much dry snow as possible using as little electricity as possible.
Last but not least, it is also important to keep the noise emissions to a minimum. The sound pressure level should be lowered, but the sound of the machine should also remain at a comfortable level.
Our development work is always about gaining the technical edge. Attractive design comes further down the line when the engineering aspects are already relatively well advanced. In this case we were concentrating on preventing snow deposits and icing over. Transportation is also much less complicated when there are no protruding parts. It is also a lot easier to fit the tarpaulins in the summer.
At the start of a project, it is important to know where the journey should lead. Exactly which properties the product should provide needs to be specified precisely. Once this is established, you need to check what resources are available. The state of the art changes rapidly - it is important always to be up to date. Strategic purchasing, which helps to find cheap solutions during the design phase and seeks out suitable suppliers for the respective components, ensures the cost-optimized design of the products. To ensure product safety right from the start, there is a so-called CE officer. This person supports the project managers by providing advice and practical assistance on issues relating to risk assessment, standards and certifications.
When developing a new fan gun, the mechanics, electrics, electronics and software should be considered as a whole and the individual development steps coordinated. Then it usually takes two to three winter seasons to reach the pre-production stage. In December 2016 we were able to make 50 pre-series models of the TR8 available to the Sales Department for customer demonstrations. Customer demonstrations are extremely important in order to get feedback from as many customers as possible under the full range of conditions before going into serial production.
It always takes a strong team in order to be successful. We have around 30 employees in the product development department. The team in Bolzano (Italy) deals primarily with the development of the fan guns, another team in Nantes (France) is mainly involved in the development of snow lances . For TR8 specifically, ten people worked on it, but by the end, hardly anyone in product development had not contributed in some way to the success of a project.
Nowadays you can, of course, do a lot on the computer. The 3D model shows the physical structure with a great deal of precision. The stresses to which all components are subjected can be determined using different simulations, and the flow processes and mutual influences of independent bodies can be simulated. But the problem is that 3D-models and simulations on the computer are simplified models that do not yet reflect all the real influences. In particular, the snowmaking processes that are thus far incompletely researched are not realistic. Prototype assemblies and field tests are therefore essential for the optimization of snow guns. It is only in the field that it becomes evident whether the theoretical ideas and considerations work in practice. The numerous snow tests are only possible thanks to the support from our test areas. We are extremely grateful for this excellent cooperation.