Canadian transportation giant Bombardier won the honor of designing the torch for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The torch, built largely of stainless steel, aluminum and sheet molding compound (SMC), is a product of an interdisciplinary team of designers and engineers from Bombardier’s Aerospace and Transportation divisions, all of them working in concert with Vancouver 2010 Olympic Committee.
Five key designers and engineers led a team that included another 50 individuals throughout the process. The inspiration for the torch’s unusual shape and clean, white color came from the crisp, modern lines left behind by sports like skiing and skating in the snow and ice. That seems appropriate since they all knew from Day 1 that the finished torch would have to proudly represent Canada and Canadians as well as function in any and all forms of Canadian weather.
From a technical standpoint, Bombardier had to meet the strict requirements all Olympic torches face regarding such aspects as flame visibility, total torch weight and overall safety. The team also faced the internal challenge of designing something that could be manufactured very quickly. Bombardier would normally knock out, say, 300 aircraft a year and now they had to make 12,000 torches, a huge capacity leap possible only due to smart engineering and careful allocation of resources.
The team chose materials for the hybrid shell such as Sheet Molding Compound (aka SMC, common in automotive processes) and aluminum that would facilitate a high manufacturing rate while meeting or exceeding operational requirements for the torch itself. The team ensured that their torch would be 100-percent safe even if dropped, held down at a 40-degree angle, or subject to high winds.
Even at an assembly rate of over 200 a day, each one of the Olympic torches is signed by one of the 600 employees involved in the manufacturing process, making each one unique and giving the opportunity for the people at Bombardier to share in an event that brings great pride to their company.
[Bombardier press release]
[Bombardier Torch Guide (PDF)]
[Article by Colin Whyte]