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ETH Life - wissen was laeuft ETH Life - wissen was laeuft

ETH - Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule Zuerich - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich
Section: Science Life
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Published: 19.04.2007, 06:00
Modified: 18.04.2007, 23:46
ETH Zurich ice hockey stick project is complete
Successful breakthrough

The project for a new stick was completed at almost the same time as the Swiss ice hockey championship. The researchers who took part see an entirely favourable end result: the company can offer better and more widely usable sports equipment, and the scientists have learned project management in an SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) context.

Christoph Meier

The Swiss ice hockey championship has just ended with a happily smiling victor and a deeply disappointed loser. The championship coincided with the completion of the “New Generation Ice Hockey Stick” project in which researchers from ETH Zurich Professor Paolo Ermanni’s Institute for Mechanical Systems together with the Busch Company from Porrentruy in the canton of Jura developed a new ice hockey stick (1)(2). There are only winners in that game.

Signed up for success

„Ermanni sums it up: “It was the right project with the right people.” Project manager Michael Sauter adds: “The fact that we were able to stay exactly on schedule and the second version of the new ice hockey stick will already be on the market this autumn is really more than we could have hoped for.” This trouble-free outcome is not something to be taken for granted. Ermanni explains that the situation was especially meaningful to them because they were committed to success. “One must achieve results that can be implemented quickly, especially when collaborating with an SME.” That’s because a commercial operation like Busch must budget very tightly for such development projects.

The bottom line added up, however: ETH Zurich research has now produced a stick that is lighter and just over 40 percent stiffer. In addition Busch has test equipment available that can be used for further development, to simulate the stresses of slashing and shots. These instruments, a type of guillotine for strikes and a punch for shots, were built after the researchers measured professional hockey players’ shots (3). Sauter explains “This is a typical engineer’s procedure. You measure, analyse, model, build a measuring instrument and can then measure again.”

A punch is used to simulate the stress in shots with ice hockey sticks. (Photo: Michael Sauter) large


Using the new ice hockey stick: Sandy Jeannin of Hockey Club Lugano. large

AThe Russians are also acquiring a taste for it

The advanced carbon fibre composite stick with a PVC foam core is meeting with increasing approval among professionals. In Hockey Club Lugano alone, seven players are already using the equipment. Four Russians will also use it in the match between Switzerland and Russia at La Chaux-de-Fonds on Friday 13 April 2007.

Of course such acceptance is compelling proof of the success of this Innovation Promotion Agency project. However it also has many other beneficial aspects. Michael Sauter recognises that he himself has profited most from having learned how to carry a project to completion in real, everyday commercial conditions. “This experience will probably be as useful to me in the future as the good scientific training”. About 10 students who took part in the project also gained contact with the practical world. Paolo Ermanni is convinced that “This is an important point for our training.”

Three quarters funded externally

General publishable fundamental research is not enough on its own for ETH Zurich. The professor explains that “This kind of technology transfer allows us to give something back to Swiss industry and tax payers, which is after all the source of our funding.” Conversely he also benefits from support by the private sector. “We have now reached the point where we can finance about three quarters of our research projects externally.”

Although the project has made Michael Sauter aware of cost aspects, they are of little consequence to him at present because the next thing he wants to do is finish his thesis. He does not yet know what will happen after that. “What is quite clear to me is that I want to continue research on carbon fibre composite construction materials. They offer fantastic possibilities.” The researcher also remains dedicated to ice hockey because the ice hockey stick project has turned the mountain biker into an amateur ice hockey player.

(1) Information from the Busch SA Company about their ice hockey stick:
(2) Institute for Mechanical Systems: with the Centre of Structural Technologies:
(3) ) Cf. the “ETH Life” report “Impressive research”

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