call us on

(02) 9771 2411
Harrington Industries

OLYMPIC TORCHES

Innovation, design and manufacturing solutions have always played a large part in the continued success of the company.

In 1998 we were awarded the contract for the design and manufacture of the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Torches. This resulted in the production of 14,000 Olympic Torches, 1,000 Paralympic Torches and 200 Community Cauldrons.

The Olympic Torch was seen and admired by countless millions of people across the world as the Torch Relay progressed through each leg of it's journey to the Olympic Stadium and the lighting of the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony on 15th September 2000.

To date we have received two awards for the Olympic Torch Project as follows:

  • Excellence in Engineering - Design and Manufacture
    (Manufacturing - Innovation Excellence Awards 2000)
  • Australian Design Awards - Industrial Design
    (Co-winners: G.A. & L. Harrington, Blue Sky Design Box & Dice, SOCOG)

Sydney 2000 - Olympic Torch Project

The Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch project was initiated by SOCOG calling for expressions of interest for the design and manufacture of a Torch to be used for the planned Olympic Torch Relay and the lighting of the Olympic Flame during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Different designers contacted GALH to see if we were interested in becoming the manufacturing partner if their submission was selected by SOCOG. We were very impressed with Blue Sky Design's design and professional approach, and were pleased to join them as the manufacturing partner in their submission.

The design submitted by Blue Sky Design was selected, however it was agreed between all parties, that GALH be appointed as the main contractor to SOCOG to complete the engineering design and development, and manufacture the required 14000 torches. Blue Sky Design then adopted an advisory role throughout the project for the aesthetic aspects of the torch.

From the outset this project was always going to present a major challenge to the expertise and innovative thinking of GALH personnel, as our task was to produce a working torch which had the appearance of a solid model manufactured by Box & Dice and provided by Blue Sky Design. A design brief was the only formal document available, which specified such things as flame burn duration, weight restrictions and the environmental conditions that the torch must continue to burn under.

  • Therefore, starting with almost a blank page, various brain-storming sessions took place, which resulted in the basic ideas on how the torch could be engineered. A number of main problem areas were identified during these sessions, as follows:
  • The high degree of difficulty in forming the three shells of the torch with curves in both the length and width of the chosen materials. This was especially difficult with the stainless steel inner shell due to the strength of this material;
  • We had to develop the choke and filtering system with other relevant manufacturing/supply companies, to produce a flame with the specified height and burn duration;
  • How to fit and hold the three shells together;
  • How to switch the torch on/off in a safe and effective manner;
  • How to produce the correct colour and texture finishes on the three shells.

A number of innovative solutions were utilised to satisfy the above.

It was decided that the outer and middle shells would be made from sheet aluminium and sheet stainless steel for the inner shell. For the outer and middle shells we initially tried drawing two halves for each shell and then tig welding them together. This was not very successful, so by experimenting with a hand-finished wooden punch and urethane die, we produced a satisfactory result with a combination of stretch forming and drawing. This proved that a developed blank could be produced, and together with a final cam-form operation, the required side curvature could also be obtained.

Once the prototype torches produced by this method were approved by SOCOG, the tooling to be used in production was designed using CAD/CAM equipment. The wooden punch was digitised using our coordinate measuring machine after which the three shells were computer modelled using Autocad 14. The tool paths were then entered into our CNC Mill, which machined the necessary punches and dies.

It was critical that the middle shell fitted properly in the outer shell. In order to ensure this, it was important that the length and width curvatures were consistent. It was decided that a 'tapered' tool should be designed on which both shells could be made. This ensured exact curvatures and kept the cost of the tooling to a minimum.

The same design/development approach was taken with the stainless steel inner shell, with the material being stretch-formed initially over the wooden punch and urethane die after which a dedicated production tool was made for this part.

In order to hold the torch together, we decided to try a hinge-pin idea similar to a cut-throat razor. This solved a number of problems as follows:

  • Easy to open and close;
  • Joined the completed assembly together;
  • Provided a datum point that enabled us to maintain the very close tolerances required;
  • Together with the cam formed sides it enabled self locking opening and closing.
  • In addition to the above, the hinge-pin provided the inspiration to use the pivot point for a cam style on/off switch which enabled the engagement/disengagement of the gas cylinder via a simple push-rod. The on/off switch was designed to be self-locking in the 'on' position, i.e. the switch needed to be in the 'off' position to open the torch and give access to the gas cylinder. If an attempt was made to open the torch when it was lit, the switch would automatically move to the 'off' position and the flame shut down.

The push-rod was designed to ensure that a 'straight' push action moved the gas cylinder in an angular direction, in order to engage the gas cylinder into the burner housing and allow the flame to be lit.

A nylon compression ring was also designed into the gas cylinder housing which produced adequate back pressure to disengage the cylinder when the torch was switched to the 'off' position. A safety washer was also fitted into the burner housing prior to the torches being packed, which ensured that the gas cylinder could not be engaged by mistake during storage and/or transit.

We worked very closely with Fuel & Combustion Technology and Adelaide University on the fitment and final testing of the fuel system and burner assembly. The decision to include a stainless steel secondary weather shield inside the top of the inner shell gave a seamless look to the top of the torch and minimised the possibility of the flame being extinguished in light rain conditions. It also acted as an additional heat shield, which minimised heat transfer to the middle and outer shells.

A significant amount of time and effort was required to design and develop the choke assembly. This assembly regulated the gas flow and it took several months to develop a choke and filtering system that gave a consistent burn time and also solved the inherent clogging, vapourising and freezing problems.

The final choke assembly was made up of three brass turned components and housed a 0.2mm thick brass 'choke-cap' with a 70 micron (the approximate diameter of a human hair) laser cut hole in the centre. This laser cutting of micro-machined parts was developed by Macquarie University and Applied Laser Technologies and eventually, after experimenting with different shaped holes, a consistent result was obtained.

The choke assembly also housed a 40 micron sintered brass filter followed by a 25 micron gauze filter to ensure that the choke did not clog-up.

The colour and texture finishes on the inner and middle shells were quite easy to achieve, in that there was no additional work required on the stainless steel inner shell and the middle shell was anodised in turquoise blue to represent the blue waters of Sydney Harbour.

The white fibre finish of the outer shell was intended to capture the feel and appearance of the Sydney Opera House roof tiles and was provided by a local company who had the methodology to achieve this look. It was decided to apply a white powder coat finish to the outer shell, after which it was immersed in a water bath and a transfer film applied. After drying, a two-pack clear polyurethane lacquer was applied to provide a superb glossy finish.

Various ideas were considered for the application of the logo. It was finally decided to use a silver hot foil stamp to achieve the required look.

When fully assembled each torch weighed 0.9kg, well below the specified maximum of 1.5kg which made it very user friendly for younger, older and physically challenged torch-bearers. It also made it easier to be carried underwater during the Barrier Reef leg of the torch relay. For this leg, Paines-Wessex developed a special flare which was fitted inside the torch and was capable of burning both in and out of water. The flare had a burn time of approximately 3 - 4 minutes.

The use of clean-burning butane-propane gas reduced carbon emissions and made the torch very environmentally friendly.

The reasonable cost of production also allowed SOCOG to offer each torch for sale to individual torch-bearers.

100% of the design activities were carried out in Australia by Australian organisations. Subsequently 95% of the materials used in the manufacture of the 14000 torches were Australian. As stainless steel is no longer produced in Australia, this had to be sourced from overseas.

The torch gained widespread approval and acceptance for both appearance and functionality by SOCOG, the IOC, past and present Olympians, Australian sports people from all sports, print and electronic media and of course the general public. This was proven time and again as the torch relay progressed through each leg of its Australian journey and culminating in the lighting of the cauldron at the Olympic Stadium on 15 September 2000.

Without a doubt, the colours, textures and shape captured in the original aesthetic design to represent the culture and embodiment of Sydney and Australia as a whole, were transformed into a wonderful example of practical engineering design and innovative manufacturing methods. The cooperation and teamwork shown by all the organisations involved in the design and manufacture of the torch resulted in a quality product that was seen and admired by countless millions of people across the world.

The key organisations involved in the project were:

  • SOCOG - Customer / Team Leader
  • G.A. & L. Harrington - Project Manager, Engineering Design / Development & Manufacture
  • Blue Sky Design - Aesthetic Design
  • Box and Dice - Solid Model
  • FCT and Adelaide University - Burner System
  • Paines Wessex - Underwater Flare