Designing for thrills
Amusement park rides require style, creativity and careful attention to safety
More than one billion riders
Fabbri Group specializes in amusement park rides. Appealing to all ages and suitable for both fixed and traveling amusement companies, Fabbri Group’s rides employ state-of-the-art technology. The company’s manufacturing processes are organized with the efficiency of a large company while maintaining the flexibility of a small one. Fabbri Group has 35 employees with nearly 100 additional people employed by several smaller companies directly related to the group’s industrial activity.
Romolo Fabbri built his first amusement park ride in 1948 using World War II surplus materials. Today, his nephews Enrico and Alberto (managing director and engineering manager, respectively) rely on the most sophisticated technologies to manufacture appealing, innovative and safe amusement park rides, ensuring fun and excitement for more than one billion people every year in Europe with a minimal accident rate. Amusement park rides developed and designed by Fabbri Group are exported worldwide.
Complex, fast-moving assemblies
“Amusement park rides are shaped metal structures fitted with moving mechanical parts,” explains Alberto Fabbri. “The goal is to create excitement and emotion in riders by means of acceleration, speed and swift position changes, which is not so different from what you would experience on a jet fighter.” Indeed, the fun of an amusement park ride has been almost the same for decades. It stems from centrifugal and linear acceleration from great heights and at high speeds. “But our rides also include special effects, such as scenery, lights and sound,” Fabbri adds.
“The knowledge needed to build an amusement park ride can be acquired only after years of experience in research and production,” Fabbri continues. “It also implies a deep understanding of the target market.” Fabbri Group develops and designs its products in-house, although many manufacturing processes have now been outsourced to vendor companies. The production processes involved in the manufacture of amusement park rides are those typical of the mechanical industry, requiring standard materials (Fe360 and Fe510), cutters, machine tools and welding processes. The unique aspect of manufacturing amusement park rides, according to Fabbri, “is the great expertise you need to assemble the various parts.”
More than 10,000 parts
“Our products are so complex that it would be impossible to develop them without an exceptionally efficient 3D design and simulation solution,” says Fabbri. For Fabbri Group, that solution is Solid Edge® software. Solid Edge offers full interactivity among the various design environments (such as assembly, part and draft).
The starting point for the design of a ride is the desired motion. There are tilting rides, rotating rides, track rides and so on. The second step is ergonomics. ‘‘Considering that we transport the most precious of goods, people, an ergonomic approach is extremely important,” Fabbri explains. “We use various models of human bodies and build the ‘shell’ or seat around each of them. Then, we design accessories, such as the seat bottom or the protection bar that keeps you in place and prevents you from being ejected.”
Once weights and movements have been calculated, designers start the virtual prototyping process in Solid Edge. The ability to preview designs while they are still in the early stages stimulates creativity. Virtual prototypes make it possible to create simulations and check part movements, accelerations and forces. Once these are known, the next step is finite element simulation, which allows designers to shape the metal structures based on the results of dynamic simulations. Another use of Solid Edge is for 3D simulations of assembly and disassembly. A unique characteristic of this kind of equipment is that for transport reasons, parts must be able to bend in complex ways or they must be able to be broken down into many subparts. This is actually the most difficult stage of the design. “The use of a powerful 3D CAD solution such as Solid Edge is critical, as it allows us to preview the objects and the volume of space they occupy,” Fabbri notes.
Solid Edge has not only been good for designers. The sales staff has also benefited. They can now preview colors and models of new rides without needing to create expensive prototypes. Solid Edge has also helped speed the overall development process. Now, manufacturing immediately follows design, while with the old 2D process, there was always a delay. For Fabbri Group, adding Solid Edge to its design process has made it easier and faster to deliver thrills.