Applicability of HiPIMS Technology in the Ski & Snowboard Industry
Sommersemester 2020 - CERN
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) is located at the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. As one of the world's largest and most respected centers for scientific research it uses complex scientific instruments such as the particle accelerators and detectors to understand the fundamental structure of particles. For its Large Hadron Collider (LHC), CERN currently uses expensive Niobium to construct the Radio Frequency (RF) cavities. As CERN is planning to create the much larger Future Circular Collider (FCC), the high amounts of Niobium needed would lead to extremely high costs, so more affordable alternatives are investigated. The High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HiPIMS) coating technology has been proposed to coat the internal RF cavities, made of rather cheap copper with a thin layer of Niobium. This technology allows for superior coating properties and thus ensures that the superconductivity of the RF cavities will be maintained. However, due to low identification of possible application fields for HiPIMS, this technology still remains at high costs.
The project goal was to determine the most promising market for HiPIMS within the snow sports industry and analyze the short-term and long-term feasibility and applicability in this market. In detail, the possible usage of the technology to coat the top sheet of skis and thus provide a superior top layer needed to be identified. To achieve this, on the one hand, an intensive analysis of the snow sports industry should reveal the most promising target market. On the other hand, the HiPIMS technology attractiveness in this identified market had to be assessed. Additionally, to support these goals, a test market for technology validation was identified.
In order to analyze the ski and snowboard industry and identify the most promising target market, the market size, potential market growth and the key market players were identified and analyzed mainly through secondary research. Furthermore, a Customer Survey with 219 participants was conducted to determine the pain points and assess the demand of customers within the targeted market. To analyze the macro environmental factors influencing the implementation of HiPIMS, a PESTEL analysis was conducted. Furthermore, a SWOT analysis was carried out, evaluating the internal and external factors influencing the applicability of HiPIMS in the ski industry. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to gain a more holistic understanding of the current production process and the probable coating process using HiPIMS. At the same time, the interviews contributed to identifying the relevant cost components and assessing the R&D needed to implement the technology. Finally, the insights on the micro- and macro-economic factors, supplemented with the information gained on the technology attractiveness were combined to derive profound recommendations for the implementation of the HiPIMS technology.
The European ski market for rental services and the high-end luxurious market were found to be the most promising application fields within the snow sports industry for HiPIMS. The upper design of skis was considered as a very important factor from the experts’ as well as the customers’ perspective. As industry-wide mainstream implementation of a flexible coating technology has a longer time horizon, it is recommended to first enter a test market with low cost sensitivity. Our research suggests that the competitive sports industry represents a very promising test market, due to low cost sensitivity and high performance improvements arising from small changes. Currently, industrial technology awareness is rather low implying that visibility needs to be raised in order to generate demand and give the ski manufacturers the needed confidence to introduce the technology to the mass market.
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Melissa Mei Wei Lee