“Star Trek” Safety Knives For Team New Zealand

America’s Cup teams are renowned for going to extreme lengths to save weight – but what Team New Zealand did to ultra-engineer lighweight personal safety knives for their crew sheds some light on just how focused NZ was on details… and how the nation’s businesses helped them along.

Andreas Markwitz of GNS Science shows off one of his super blades photo by john nicholson/farifax nz

Andreas Markwitz of GNS Science shows off one of his super blades photo by john nicholson/farifax nz


The knives were created from powdered titanium using a 3-D laser printer, and then sent to a real-life wizard who bombarded them with nitrogen ions to make them super strong.

The custom cutlery was created entirely by New Zealand firms – designed by Victory Knives and then made (printed!) by Rapid Advanced Manufacturing using a newfangled 3-D laser printer.

According to the New Zealand Herald, “The 3D laser heats up to 5000C in ‘the blink of an eye’ and has a beam that moves at 12km/s.” (Those of us in the Colonies should substitute 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit and 7.5 miles/second. In other words: Wicked hot and wicked fast. )

After printing, the knives were ion-enhanced to increase their hardness using a process developed at a third NZ firm, GNS Science. Chief Ion-Flinger Andreas Markwitz describes the process in stuff.co.nz:

“… for the titanium knives, positively charged nitrogen ions (an atom stripped of one of its electrons), are extracted from a plasma using electricity… (and) accelerated to speeds of hundreds of kilometres per second. The ions have so much kinetic energy that they can penetrate any physical material and there are no chemical boundaries to this technology.

“When the ion goes in it shakes up the atoms it is passing by. At the end of its path, it is knocking atoms around, like balls being bounced around in a pool game. The atoms are now out of place and available for chemical bonds. They’re basically saying, ‘where can I now bond to’.

Each team member reportedly wore two knives – which weigh 31 grams, or about an ounce – half what the “old” knife weighed.

They went through all that to save an ounce per person?

That’s less than a pound on a boat that weighs about 13,000 pounds.

The folks at Victory were kind enough to send to a brochure –

03591 - Victory Titanium Diving Knives -no logo

for more on the fancy 3-D printer: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503347&objectid=11107028

For the article about the knives:
http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/small-business/9440864/Titanium-technology-an-exciting-prospect

And if you need more physics in your life, here’s the ion-enhancement link:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/job-market/8947903/He-is-Ion-Man