Cooler Runnings

Bo-Dyn and Lincoln Electric help revive the U.S. Bobsled team.

BobsledFor those with a need for speed, bobsledding is one of the most popular Olympic sports. In this sport, teams of two or four drivers take sleds that combine light metals, an aerodynamic composite body and steel runners speeding down a carved ice chute at speeds that approach 95 miles per hour.

Not too long ago, the sport was dominated by the European countries. The United States team used European sleds and between 1956 and 1998, the U.S. didn’t win a single bobsled medal. In 1992, the U.S. had a particularly poor Olympic showing. NASCAR driver and bobsled enthusiast Geoff Bodine knew that U.S. sledders could do much better than that. He contacted well known race car development firm Chassis Dynamics and convinced the company to help him do something about it.

The two companies formed an alliance, calling it “Bo-Dyn,” and set out to build a better sled. A big part of building a bobsled is the welding that goes into the chassis. Bo-Dyn realized that it needed a partner that could provide it with quality equipment that would get the job done right. The Lincoln Electric Company had worked with Bodine in the past, so he gave his old partner a call. “We worked with Jeff Bodine on his NASCAR truck team for a period of time,” says Lincoln Sports Marketing Manager Mickey Holmes. “So when it came time for this project, he gave us a call.”

BobsledBuilding a Better Bobsled
As you can imagine, building a bobsled is no easy task. There are strict standards that must be adhered to. A four-person sled must be a maximum of 3.8 meters long and weigh less than 1,388.9 pounds when full. There’s still considerable wiggle room within these parameters, though. “Bo-Dyn’s goal was to adapt its experience with, aerodynamically designing, fabricating and welding stock cars and trucks to the bobsled environment, creating a sled design that will allow our Olympians to maximize their talents” says Holmes.

The Bo-Dyn team did exactly that. However, it didn’t matter how great of a design they came up with—if the welding wasn’t done correctly, everything would fall apart. “The welding is a big challenge,” says Holmes. “The variety of metals that need joining is very broad. They’re welding everything from a .030- inch aluminum sheet metal to one-inch thick steel.” Further complicating matters are the conditions that these sleds must survive. Olympic-caliber bobsleds are faced with up to five Gs of pressure and speeds from 80-100 miles per hour on each run. They also have to deal with uneven ice that makes for a very bumpy ride. “That means cracking becomes a problem if the welds aren’t done properly,” Holmes explains.

To help the cause, Lincoln supplied Bo- Dyn with several different welders. “They have a Precision TIG275, a Power MIG 255XT and a portable Power MIG 180C that they take to the track with them,” says Holmes. Bo-Dyn engineers use the machines to perform intricate welds on the sleds’ chassis, suspension, steering, brakes and other internal components.

So far the experiment is paying off in spades for the U.S. Olympic bobsled team. In the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, the U.S. team won its first medals since 1956. The women’s twoperson team won gold, and the men’s team won silver in the four-man race. More recently, the U.S. four-man team won its first-ever gold medal in the World Championships. This month, the U.S. team is attempting to win its first-ever Olympic gold, and it’s the welding industry that will be holding everything together.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association