Behind the Scenes: Designing a Better Zip Line Trolley

We’re all about solving problems at Head Rush Technologies, and we noticed a big one in the zip line industry; the most popular zip line trolley on the market is actually not a zip line trolley at all. It’s a tyrolean pulley designed to be used on ropes instead of metal cables and meant for slow speeds and not fast zip lines. This was the first indicator that there was significant room for improvement in zip line trolleys, so Head Rush Tech set our engineers on the task. The goal was to design trolleys specifically for zip lining and to address the most common trolley issues. The end results are our new LightSpeed trolleys: the LightSpeed EZ Clip Zip Line Trolley and the LightSpeed Micro Zip Line Trolley.

The two new trolleys were designed by Ryan Walker, Product Development Engineer at Head Rush. Ryan started his designs based on the most common problems seen in current zip line trolleys. “I went after every single failure mode, and that’s what the design was based around,” he said. “I worked in all the features I wanted, and then I just started trimming fat and taking material away from the trolleys. And when you do that, take away what you don’t need, sometimes you get lucky and it starts to look like something cool.”

Of course revisions were inevitable and the revision process was long and difficult. “All these different features had to be tweaked upwards of 50 times to get it just right,” Ryan said. “Because as simple as it might sound, it’s just a zip line trolley, there are so many nuances.”

To test the initial designs and CAD drawings of the trolleys, the engineering team used hand molded clay molds, 3D prints, and metal prototypes to get a feel for how the trolley would interact with the zip line cable and a user’s hand. Prototypes were also sent to zip line operators to see how the trolley worked in the field. “Every single bit of that information went directly into the design of these trolleys,” said Ryan.

In the final design, the EZ Clip Trolley and the Micro Trolley share many features. They are both lightweight, durable, and small trolleys designed to withstand impact braking. Each trolley is made to with high-quality materials and high-performance bearings to increase lifespan and to maximize ROI. Both trolleys are made to last while also reducing wear on the zip line cable and other braking equipment.

The EZ Clip’s standout benefit is the one-handed installation. Ryan added a trigger feature to the design that can be activated by pressing it against the zip line cable for easy one-handed installations. This trigger feature has never been seen before on zip line trolleys and is patent-pending. Even though the trigger feature was not part of the original design, it’s become the embodiment of the EZ Clip Trolley and the fast and easy one-handed installation that makes it such a unique trolley.

After months of design, revisions, and final touches, Ryan feels great about the product and is looking forward to seeing the EZ Clip and Micro Zip Line Trolleys in use on around the world “When the first batch of production parts came in, that was a pretty fulfilling experience,” Ryan said. “Now, seeing a product that I created online and available for sale delivers a great feeling.”

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