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Clones vs Original designs cost

Discussion in 'Q&A' started by Coaster Hipster, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. Coaster Hipster

    Coaster Hipster Well-Known Member

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    Clones are often frowned upon among enthusiasts for basically offering the same layout as another coaster. Supposedly they're cheaper than an original layout design, but by how much? I've never seen an extensive research or analysis on the topic.

    A corollary question is how much work and energy does it save the manufacturer to go cloning? I suppose they still have to adapt some calculations to the new park's terrain if needed for example.

    Also, isn't a clone ride likely to be delivered more quickly to the park? Less time spent on coming out with a new design, and maybe the factory can work faster with a layout they're familiar with?
     
  2. Alaeriia

    Alaeriia Active Member

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    I think it's a similar price point for actual construction and delivery ($25M seems to be a common quote), but you might shave some time and cash off by using an off-the-shelf model. Also, some companies may offer a bulk discount if a chain buys multiple coasters, and a stock model can help with that. Finally, many park owners may not have the creative mindset of those in the NL2 section of this forum, and may just go ride a coaster and then say, "Can we have that in our park?"
     
  3. Chris Brown

    Chris Brown Mr CoasterForce 2016 CF Award Winner 2016

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    Will save a fortune in design fees pumping out clones. Each custom design has to be fully engineered before they even consider manufacturing and I know with smaller coasters they often errect a section or the entire thing to test. Not saying it doesn't cost to design a clone but would come more under the scope of a ground work contractor to prepare the topography as opposed to the manufacturer designing for a different location.
     
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  4. Hixee

    Hixee Most Knowledgeable Member 2016 Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    Chris speaks the truth. Massive savings.

    You don't have to undertake any major design work on the ride (ground work only, basically), all of your tooling and fabrication procedures have already been figured out, you don't have to analyse the structures, rider forces, train design, etc. Plus, you're picking up a load of pre-selected third party components where you've already gone through the hassle of specifying them (chain, lift motors, cabling, etc), meaning you save lots of time there.

    I'd love to know the actual figures, but I could easily believe a 30-50% saving over a custom model of a comparable size.
     
  5. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    Think about the fact that all B&Ms are manufactured at a plant in Batavia, OH. If a SF wants another BtR clone, it doesn't even need to go through B&M, basically, they just have to start fabbing the track in Ohio, and I'm sure they still have all the dies and such they need for it.
     
  6. Gazza

    Gazza Well-Known Member

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    Its not necessarily a great deal cheaper to clone....In particular wind loadings on a ride vary by region. In Australia for instance cyclonic conditions must be considered, but not snow loads, so this may lead to some variance in column size and even track truss types (3 tube, 4 tube etc) since the track gets used for bracing.
    Foundations are obviously very site specific depending on soils.
    Some variation to the ride hardware is inevitable due to local standards for amusement rides.

    I think you save somewhat since not all calcs need to be done from scratch, but at the same time you'd need to at the very least re confirm numbers from the first install.
    The main avoided cost is the design process for how it travels around the track and the dynamic loads etc
     
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  7. Hyde

    Hyde Matt SR Staff Member Moderator Social Media Team

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    Obviously it saves on design cost; but what ratio of total cost is design? I would guess steel, site prep, and transportation are the largest chunks of the pie.
     
  8. Hixee

    Hixee Most Knowledgeable Member 2016 Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    You're right, but I would wager on something like a coaster they're not that much less than half of the pie.

    In my field (building design), it’s often stated that for a relatively standard building (i.e. not a huge bespoke airport in the Middle East, but a mid-size office/residential building) the design cost is around 30% of the total building cost.

    In this instance, the design cost would cover everything – geotechnic, structure, civil, services, fire, acoustic, etc. Basically, everything you’d need to generate a set of plans for a contractor to build off (before anyone says, I know I’m simplifying things a little as there are contractor designed portions and all that kind of thing). This typically is said to be around 30% of the total building cost. This work would (with the exception of some geotechnics and very small input from the rest) not need to be repeated if you decided to make an exact replica of the building.

    From there, everything else you have to pay for every time you build a clone. Groundworks, materials, fabrication, installation, commissioning, all have to be done every time. This is typically said to be around 70% of the total building cost.

    The thing to remember with buildings of course, is that they use a LOT more materials than coasters. Simply by virtue of their form. The material mass of a building must be orders of magnitude more than in coasters, and a lot of that 70% is accounted for in the purchasing and utilisation of that material.

    I would be willing to wager coaster design is at least that sort of ratio of design/construction cost, but wouldn’t be surprised if the split is even higher, maybe up towards 50%. Not necessarily because I think the design time is that much longer (don’t underestimate how complex buildings can be), but because the material cost, fabrication time and construction time are that much more reduced.

    I’m trying to use my experience of one part of the engineering world to inform judgement on another, which is always risky, but my “gut feeling” (for whatever that is worth), is that building a clone saves you a lot of money - in the order of 30-50%.
     
  9. Hyde

    Hyde Matt SR Staff Member Moderator Social Media Team

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    A difficulty with getting a feel for this is if you are looking to cost of previous coaster installations to get a feel of price comparison vs. scale of project, you also have to factor in inflation. While TTD and Gatekeeper both cost $25M, $25M actually equates to ~$32.5M in 2013 money.

    Appreciate the insight @Hixee, and it definitely makes sense on the cost reductions that are had in not needing to reinvent the wheel. I've always wondered myself the cost savings on clones, and how much "redesign" is needed for say building a Vekoma SLC over water vs. on land.
     
  10. Jarrett

    Jarrett Most Obnoxious Member 2016 CF Award Winner 2016

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    Something else worth mentioning: It's going to save a lot more cloning a steel coaster than it will cloning a wooden coaster.

    While the whole idea of coaster cloning is to save the money and manpower that it would take to design a brand new ride from the ground up, steel coaster track still needs machined. Cloning a wooden coaster you'll be saving the money it takes to design the ride but cloning a steel coaster, you also save the money and work that goes into manufacturing the track. That's getting engineering techs to tell the track bender how to make the rails, machinists to do it, and possibly costly transport from the manufacturing site to the construction site. But to make a Premier Sky Rocket II, I promise you the guys at Premier have a pre-written program on their computer where they just shove a pipe into the track bender, push a button, and let it go. And once those track pieces are done, they still need shipped.

    Wooden coaster structures are made almost entirely (if not 100%) from standard parts that are available off the market. You could probably go to Home Depot right now and buy all of the boards, brackets, and sheet metal you need to build a wooden coaster right off the shelf, and from how things looked on Mystic Timbers's site, all GCI did was have pallets upon pallets of lumber shipped from whatever company they chose to Kings Island, never having to make an appearance on GCI property.

    For Valravn, a completely custom design, B&M had to pay to have it designed, fabricated, and shipped to Sandusky. On the other hand, when GCI built also custom Gold Striker, they had to pay to have it designed but they didn't have to fabricate anything, they just bought it from an outside company and told them to drop it at CGA. When B&M was still into building Batman clones, it didn't cost anything to design them or figure out how to program their plasma cutters but it was still man hours in the plant and time that the machining equipment was occupied that could have been used for another customer. And when CCI cloned the Hurlers, it was already designed and they could just have custom parts dropped off from a location that might have been more convenient for them.

    [​IMG]

    Red means it costs more, green means it costs less, same color means it shouldn't matter. The only one that isn't either color is steel clone fabrication, which is kind of a grey area because while the CNC equipment already knows how to make it, manpower is still needed on a factory floor to make a clone and it's still time that the company has to invest in getting that project done.
     
  11. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    B&Ms are fabricated in Batavia, Ohio. They're definitely not bent, I believe they are die-cast. Hence for a clone they can use the same die. Transport of B&Ms to Sandusky from Batavia is probably the shortest trip track makes in the industry with Cedar Point and B&M.
     
  12. Hixee

    Hixee Most Knowledgeable Member 2016 Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    @Jarrett, a valid point, but don't forget that really all you're doing is fabricating the track elsewhere. B&M order standard sheet metal and rolled tube steel (I would be surprised if they do any metal forging themselves), and do the bending and assembly in their plant. GCI order standard wooden planks and fittings, and do the bending and assembly on site. There are still teams of skilled builders from both teams, it's just that with B&M the steel fabricators (whilst the CNC machine does know what it's doing, don't underestimate how many skilled workers are needed to keep those sort of machines running) are behind closed doors, leaving only flat-pack style assembly required on site, whereas GCI do it all out in the open. Granted, they're building the coaster off plans and it likely takes more manpower and skilled carpentry on site (which will, if anything, put your hourly rate up), but I wouldn't be surprised if the costs of that compared to all of the steel fabricators ends up being closer than you're making out. You're right in terms of transportation costs though - it's a lot easier to source lumber anywhere in the world, that it is to source a section of B&M track. ;)

    B&M (or any manufacturer) are absolutely, categorically, not die casting the track or supports. The rails are extruded steel tube, rolled and bend into the correct shape, the ties and spines are rolled sheet metal which is cut, folded and welded into the correct shape, and the supports are spiral-wound rolled sheet. They may do some die casting for auxiliary track components (components for trims, the chain assembly, brakes, nuts, bolts, bogies and brackets), but there's no die casting for the track or supports. It doesn't provide the right sort of structural properties.
     
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  13. Jarrett

    Jarrett Most Obnoxious Member 2016 CF Award Winner 2016

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    ^My point exactly.

    With a steel coaster, an extra step exists between the raw material stage and coaster stage, which happens in a machine shop. You're correct about what standard parts B&M orders, they're steel plates that are plasma cut and welded into the spine and ties, whereas the pipes are bent into rails and welded on. RMC track starts life the same way, long curved steel strips that are then welded together into a single I-box rail (and is much easier to do than a single B&M part).

    Mystic Timbers never had to have any of this done to it. Like you said, it's easy to get a pallet of lumber anywhere and GCI did just that. There were pallets upon pallets stacked by the train tracks last season while it was going by up, still wrapped by the supplier.

    One of the reasons RMCs are so brilliant is because it's a very versatile ride system with 90% standard parts. The rails have to be custom machines and welded and that's it, they have a robot that can crank out the rail brackets and topper track side brackets. The ledgers, supports, all that is made of standard stock material that can probably be ordered up by any of us doing a quick Google search. But for example, word on the street is they have 6 2018 projects, 3 of which are free spins. Those free spins have already been cracked by the staff running that equipment. Sure they'll still need welded but the sequence that plasma cutter needs to cut the plate out to do so already exists. Now RMC Mean Streak, on the other hand, is a custom layout and someone still needs to program that plasma cutter to make it make RMC Mean Streak's track strips. Actually the new field I've switched to deals with this concept heavily.

    So it's not so much the fact that it costs a lot to get raw materials to a coaster track fabrication shop as it is the fact that, like you said, it's easier to just get standard parts sent where you need them. Actually when I talked to Jeff Pike (Skyline Attractions guy who knew Curtis Summers personally, he worked on Mystic Timbers) at CoasterStock he told me that there's actually a deficit of track fabricators now, so the problem is probably more prevelant now more than ever.
     
  14. Mack

    Mack Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the info! I know there existed a big difference between Arrow's shaping of track and B&M/Intamin, but wasn't totally sure (hence believe) exactly the technical components of it.
     

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