Valley company cutting steel for U.S. Olympic Luge team

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- A locally-owned company has been a huge role in the success of the USA Luge team during the Winter Olympic games.

There's a lot of engineering that goes into making the sleds go faster than the others, and for the past four Winter Olympics, the USA Luge team's technical designers have trusted only a Phoenix man and his water-jet cutting technique to make the medal-winning cut.

"We're bringing home Olympic metal with work here in Phoenix," said John Owen, USA Luge's Director of Technical Programs.

The Phoenix shop uses a computerized machine, combining water to create a clean, precise cut.

"A stream of very high pressure water that runs from 60,000-90,000 pounds per square inch," said Arnie Lytle, President of Accurate Water Jet.

Crushed garnet does the slicing.

"It's just a cutting tool," said Lytle. "The sand is the cutting media, and water is what carries it."

It takes about four hours to cut one piece of steel, and the slightest deviation in this process will ruin the entire piece.

"We're a sport that's timed to the thousandth of a second, and we're in there working with computer programs. We're talking thousandths of an inch," said Owen.

Currently, a new batch of specially engineered steel made from a secret recipe of alloys is being cut. The cut and content affect the friction of the steel on the ice, and therefore, the speed of the sled.

After the cutting is finished, the steel then ends up in New York, where the edges are fine-tuned by the coaches' fingers for each athlete. Then they are attached to the luge.
The steel cut in Phoenix will eventually be used on sleds that will be raced in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.