Taking the carbon route to the top

#tkgoesPyeongChang | Engineering | People at thyssenkrupp | thyssenkrupp has been collaborating with luge world champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken since 2014. The goal is clear: Gold in South Korea. This time in our series about the team behind the world champions we introduce Christoph Pawelski.

Together Toni Eggert and Christoph Pawelski carry another carbon mat over to the workbench and lay it carefully on the already laminated and extruded mats of the sled pod, building it up layer by layer in the workshop at thyssenkrupp. The finished pod is part of the sled currently carrying world champions Eggert/Benecken to victory at World Cup races. With great dexterity and concentration they apply epoxy resin to the carbon mats using brushes and rollers. Any crease or damage to the fiber weave could impact stability – which is critical at speeds of more than 120 km/h. But as a mechanical engineer in the Carbon, Lightweight & Composite Materials unit, Christoph is an expert with the material that is the ideal choice for the sled pod due to its lightness and strength.

Carbon know-how for the luge project

Christoph has worked at the TechCenter Carbon Composites in Dresden since 2012 and ensures know-how transfer in projects throughout the thyssenkrupp Group. Fiber-reinforced plastics are highly versatile and can be found in state-of-the-art elevator cabs, aircraft, wheel rims and also luge sleds. Against this background it was no surprise that Alex Meier, “Head of sled construction”, asked Christoph for support in optimizing and producing the sled belonging to Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken in March 2015. Together with Toni he visited Christoph in Dresden and convinced him to join the pit stop crew. The luge project immediately fascinated Christoph and it was clear to him: “We can definitely achieve something here.”

Athletes and engineers speak the same language

As a carbon expert he provided key impetus for the cab of the new thyssenkrupp MULTI elevator system. MULTI is set to replace the current rope system and represents the future of elevator construction. A maglev technology similar to the technology of the Transrapid is being used as the drive system. The rope-free design enables multiple cabs to operate in a single shaft, both vertically and horizontally. After a great deal of work in the office and workshop, and countless tests thyssenkrupp presented the new lightweight MULTI cab at its test tower in 2017.

Christoph Pawelski with his colleague Michael Kirsch in front of the lightweight carbon MULTI cab in the test tower in Rottweil.

Christoph Pawelski (right) with his colleague Michael Kirsch in front of the lightweight MULTI cab in the test tower in Rottweil.

Knowledge meets intuition

With so much expertise Christoph was also exactly the right person for the development and realization of the new sled pod. After all, alongside stiffness and aerodynamics, weight is critical. It quickly became clear in discussions between the engineer and the athletes: “We speak the same language.” So Christoph took over as manager of the carbon-related aspects of the project, fine-tuning shape changes and adjustments to the structure as part of the thyssenkrupp team in collaboration with technical expert Toni. “The engineering expertise has to be in tune with the luger’s intuition,” says Christoph. Every adjustment in the lab was tested multiple times in practice until the optimum result was achieved.

Looking to gold with confidence

Even though Christoph had no contact with winter sports before the luge project, he quickly became a fan – in particular as a result of his direct connection to the pod. “In other projects years can sometimes pass from the idea to the finished element. Here I could get the part straight onto the track and experience the first victory personally,” he says enthusiastically. Christoph also thinks the two lugers have a good chance of winning in PyeongChang: “I know what thyssenkrupp is capable of and what the athletes are capable of. Toni and Sascha are excellent sportsmen with a sophisticated high-tech sled. This combination can win gold.”

The thyssenkrupp pit stop crew

thyssenkrupp has been cooperating with luge world champions Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken since 2014. Three engineers from the Group contribute their expertise to making the sled faster and better year by year. The carbon pod has been further enhanced, the runners optimized and the key elements of the sled – the blades – made even faster. Two communications experts are also accompanying the lugers in their work. The goal is clear: Gold in South Korea.

Discover more about our “Head of Sled Construction” here. In our story   “The steel man”  you can find a portrait of our expert for the heart of the luge.

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#tkgoesPyeongChang | Finally the time has come: The big day of the luge race is there. Together with pit crew member Alex Meier, our Korea-expert Sora An as well as family and friends of the athletes Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken, I am cheering for the luge team live on the track in PyeongChang. How exciting the decisive competition was, you will learn in my second travel log.