In PyeongChang, South Korea this February, competitors representing eighty-nine countries from around the world will be giving performances of Olympic proportions to achieve their dreams of capturing gold. For many skiers, realizing this ultimate goal is due in no small part to countless hours of practice and conditioning. Helping athletes from America, Canada and many other countries in these efforts is the roller ski company Jenex, who relies on the strength and stability of Minalex miniature aluminum extrusions for the main chassis of their industry leading training equipment.
Jenex founder Len Johnson’s first contact with Minalex dates back to when he and Windsor Hunter founded Teradyne Connection Systems. During the 1980’s, as he recalls, their company “…was one of Minalex’s largest customers.” An accomplished ski racer himself, Len was working with a company in Sweden in 1987 when he was approached by a group of Swedish skiing coaches about a study by Dr. Artur Forsberg. The report indicated that the roller ski equipment being used at the time did not effectively replicate the same conditions as skiing on snow. They asked if he could develop a better product. So, while still at Teradyne, Len ordered a die for shafts from Minalex. For the next two years, and with the help of the extrusions from Minalex, he perfected the product and patented a device to make the roller skis feel more like skiing on snow.
On the heels of positive results from top international coaches and World Cup competitors who tested his roller skis, Len retired from Teradyne in 1989 and started Jenex. Since that time and for seven Winter Olympiads, Jenex training equipment featuring Minalex aluminum extrusions have been used by Cross-Country, Biathlon and Nordic Combined competitors who have won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals.
Over that time, Minalex and Jenex have been manufacturing partners, building equipment that simulates actual winter training conditions when the weather is warm and snowflakes are a world away. Michael Casey, Head of Extrusion Applications and Design at Minalex, states, “We’ve had an outstanding partnership with Jenex for a very long time. They’ll contact us at various times of the year to produce aluminum extrusions in limited quantities to very precise specifications for their V2 line of roller skis, and many others.”
Miniature aluminum extrusions are an ideal solution for use as the main chassis of a roller ski. The architecture of the Jenex V2 rail’s profile is a clear indication of this aluminum extrusion’s value and performance attributes. It is designed in a way that virtually eliminates torque and twisting, two unwanted characteristics in roller skis. The hollow profile features a web in the center that adds strength without the weight of unwanted mass. This lighter more stable construction helps make the roller ski turn more easily and more consistently. All roller skis with pneumatic tires use Minalex aluminum rails exclusively.
Another key advantage of using aluminum is the ability to produce a finished shape, a result of the extruding process. This is not possible with some other materials like steel, which is almost three times heavier and requires considerable time to properly machine the material to produce a final part. Wood is another material sometimes used in making a roller ski chassis. However, the strongest wood materials, like oak and hickory, require their rail dimensions to be much thicker than comparable aluminum extrusions in order to withstand the load and achieve similar performance. This can make them significantly heavier unless they are reinforced with carbon, a process that is both labor intensive and adds considerably to the cost.
Minalex, in contrast, supplies Jenex with rails in twenty-four and thirty-inch lengths, which require little if any trimming or finishing. Like the roller skis that Jenex manufactures, all Minalex miniature aluminum extrusions are also made in the U.S.A. “We’re very proud of our work and our longstanding relationship with Jenex,” adds Michael Casey. “We’re continually called upon to meet the critically precise specifications required for their outstanding brand of roller skis. We welcome those challenges and seek to outperform them every time.”
Outperforming the competition is the driving force for Olympic competitors training with Jenex roller skis who require their training equipment to be dependable and durable.
Michael Casey concludes. “Our relationship with Jenex is very special. It’s one that reminds all of us at Minalex how the work we do for our clients and their customers starts with aluminum, helps empower dreams and can ultimately turn to gold.”
Filed Under: Design World articles, Manufacturing