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Wind at the end of the tunnel

Portrait

Vertical wind tunnels are a huge hit with participants and spectators alike. Wherever one is installed, large queues form of people eager to give this new sport a go. Although Strojirna Litvinov did not invent the idea, when it decided to diversify its metal working business in a new direction, it created its own technology rather than buying in existing technology from America.

“It was a crazy idea, but we had very limited competition in Europe so there was certainly the opportunity to tread virgin territory,” says Divisional Director Jan Špatka Ph.D., who is responsible for the wind tunnel side of the business. “We invented our own system, which is now patented and built our first free fall simulator beside a shopping mall in Prague with the plan of operating it as well. It opened in May 2011 having been completely financed internally.”

Following the success of this first model, investors came on board, and production was expanded. In 2012, the first wind tunnel was sold to one of the investors, and Strojirna Litvinov focused exclusively on production.

Today, aerodynamic tunnels account for 85% of the company’s turnover. “We have delivered and installed around 15 working wind tunnels for leisure and entertainment as well as research and development all over Europe and have contacts in Asia, Columbia, Egypt and Malaysia currently in negotiation with whom we expect to conclude definite contracts in the near future,” says Mr. Špatka. “We work on between five and six wind tunnel projects each year and build these completely in-house, including research, design and complete production of the technology and supporting steel structure.”

The aerodynamic tunnels Strojirna Litvinov builds are all destined for customers abroad, confirming the depth of the company’s expertise on the worldwide stage. Its proprietary technology features a number of unique advantages.

“We are the only manufacturer to build fully circulated wind tunnels with an active cooling system so that there is minimal loss of energy and comfortable temperature control,” says Mr. Špatka. “Our tunnels provide high-quality air streams in the flying chamber with minimal turbulence and vibrations and a high level of thermal comfort.”

The tunnels vary in size from a diameter of 2.8 m to 5.2 m, which is currently the largest tunnel available in the market, and can be customized to the exact needs of the client.

“We try to do as much as possible ourselves to give us total control over our product, and expect wind tunnel manufacture to remain the focus of our business for at least the next five years,” says Mr. Špatka. “Having said that, we are currently looking at a new project focused on microbreweries.”

The idea here is to take advantage of the trend towards artisanal beers in the drinks market and build up a chain of microbreweries in suitable locations across Europe. “It is quite a departure from what we are currently doing but so were wind tunnels when we first started,” says Mr. Špatka. “When you have enthusiasm for an idea on your side, the sky is the limit.”

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