Case Study

Alcoa Innovation and Speed Skating Canada

Aluminium: the ideal support for skate blades

In a world where performance is measured at the hundredth of a second, every ounce of equipment matters.

Weight is but one of the elements at play; mechanical strength and aerodynamics are also part of the equation. In other words, there are a host of details that help top athletes give it their all.

Speed skating is one of the jewels of Canadian sports. This discipline is dominated by the quest for excellence, and in the past few years, results have been just that. The monumental victories of our Canadian skaters will be forever etched in our hearts and minds. No doubt the names of these athletes effortlessly spring to mind, but their success depends on an entire team’s work—the coaches, designers, and technical experts also deserve to be acknowledged.

Technical excellence stems from the continuous, meticulous work of experienced teams that use proven methods and practices, while staying on top of new innovations. This is why François Girard, engineer assigned to development and innovation at Speed Skating Canada, contacted Alcoa Innovation. The challenge? Plan and implement the design for a new blade support.

Blade supports are made of aluminium and generally provide excellent performance. However, athlete feedback on blade features initiated testing to correlate subjective comments with measureable data. Results led to the development of a modelling and simulation strategy and, ultimately, an improved design.

Pooled expertise helped design blade supports with exceptional mechanical properties. The supports contain aluminium alloys developed by Alcoa for the aerospace industry—where excellence is crucial. Blade support performance on the track will be continuously tested by athletes. Ready, set, go!