What were some obstacles or concerns that you faced in developing this floor?
One of the first obstacles was the small space that we were working in. Cylindrical springs that are in existing spring floors are only 4.25 inches tall. That is not a lot of space to engineer some changes that would have a huge impact on the athletes. I didn’t want to have to change the existing design too much because the whole floor is just 7 inches tall with the springs, boards, foam and carpet. If we could make it the same height I thought it would be easier for gyms to replace their floors. The were 4 or 5 engineers that we went to for help initially that told us it couldn’t be done in that small space.
Another obstacle was finding manufacturing companies to work with me. I don’t think I could have got it done if it were not for the financial crisis in 2008. Many of the plants manufacturing for autos were closed for a time because of this and so when I called they were available to work on this. I found a plant in New York that makes automotive springs that spent a considerable amount of time helping me develop this new technology. Today they are so busy that I doubt they would give me the same attention if any at all.
Another obstacle was learning how spring floors work and understanding the problem. When I looked into it, I found like you did that there was very little in the literature about spring floors. After having a chance meeting with a researcher (see your question below) I asked him to send me any research he had done.
“Current research with other floor surfaces shows that the floors are not "tuned" properly so that when the gymnast tumbles across the diagonal of the floor, the floor sets up a wave pattern and by the time they punch off for their final skill the floor frequently is moving down away from them as if they are hitting a "hole" in the floor and then as they land the floor "wave pattern" is moving back up at them… Overall, I think that the gymnasts that have used The Weller Spring Floor feel they are better than the existing spring floors. Good luck and continue your great work with gymnastics equipment.”
To better understand this, think of a diving board. If you jump on it more than once or twice when you come back down the board could be moving away from you and that would feel like hitting a “hole.” Or it could be moving back up at you. Or you can even get a double bounce like on a trampoline. This is what it means to not be “tuned” properly.
The researcher's studies showed that the spring floor "bottoms out" and that this results in a rebound frequency of existing spring floors that is about twice as fast as the gymnast's take off. This results in the knees bending twice or a "rattle" in the floor. This is dangerous because the athlete’s body is in a vulnerable position and so the “tuning” and the “rattle” in the floor contribute to injuries.
What were the specific design choices that you made that help you make it?
That is a great question. Above I was saying how the small space made it hard. When we added “dead” or “tight” coils at the bottom, the ones that are touching each other, it made it possible for the loading to go from half of existing cylindrical springs initially and then spike up quickly to match the loading at 2” of deflection on cylindrical ones. Now we have a spring floor that is bouncy for all ages and levels and eliminates the competitive advantage that heavier athletes have on existing floors. (Smaller and lighter gymnasts just don’t weigh enough to deflect the cylindrical springs.) And also is a closer matched response (tuning) to everyone!! That means it’s SAFER!!
How long did it take you to develop the final thing?
About a year and a half. I think there were at least a dozen or more trial springs that we made that didn’t work. The Patents took about 3 years to get.
What got you to have the idea to make this stuff?
So I was hired in 2007 by an entertainment company to produce and direct a live gymnastics show for a convention of doctors. They wanted to have Olympians and World Champions to do a show after the 2008 Olympics. In the course of hiring athletes from our National Team I attended a coaches meeting. The researcher presented the research on spring floors ahead of my chance to speak. Later, we went out for dinner and I asked him why he didn’t “fix” it. He replied that he was only a researcher and that is as far as he went. I couldn’t believe this technology hadn’t changed for almost 30 years! I couldn’t think of any other technology that old. I thought, even my toothbrush has batteries now!
It was like a song i couldn’t get out of my head. There has to be a better way! When it came time to do the show in Dallas, I was able to rehearse with the athletes at a gym called WOGA where Olympic Coach Valeri Liukin is one of the owners. I asked if he would try it out and he LOVED it!! And so did the gymnasts.
Did you consult with engineers or are you an engineer?
Yes. I had a lot of help from engineers at the auto plant. They had their own software and the machinery to make springs. I am not an engineer but having been a gymnast made it possible to understand how to make it work.
Weller Spring Floor
CAREFREE, AZ- February 14, 2016 - Weller Spring Floor (King Bars Entertainment, a division of King Bars Sports, LLC), a leading innovator in spring floor technology and gymnastics/cheerleading spring floors, today announced an agreement with Shanghai Disneyland to plan, design and fabricate a new acrobat floor for Shanghai Disneyland Resort.
Weller Spring Floor Patented Technology allows companies to optimize set and stage designs for performer safety and can be applied along a wider range of performance applications than previously used systems.
Technological improvements in staging is required as the difficulty level of acrobat stunts has skyrocketed in recent years. Engineering new safety mechanisms into the floor itself reduces peak impact force on the performer, thereby reducing injuries and improving performance.
“It is my pleasure to announce that Weller Spring Floor is expanding into entertainment at Shanghai Disneyland. Walt Disney Companies are known for their interest in the latest and best technologies, and this partnership offers strong support for our business,” said Scott Weller, CEO of King Bars Sports, LLC.
“I look forward to exploring the possibilities this new technology opens up for Shanghai Disneyland and Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, in support with Stunts Team at Walt Disney Creative Entertainment in Orlando.” Weller adds.
"The park will take full advantage of advances in technology," Disney said in a promo, "that will fully immerse our guests in our stories and attractions so that they will have happy experiences like never before."
For more information about Weller Spring Floor please visit http://www.wellerspring.com, and https://www.shanghaidisneyresort.com/en/ for more information about Shanghai Disney Resort.