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Maryland firm designs skate blade sharpener for U.S. Olympic speedskaters

Aerospace firm Sigma Space Corp. has joined fellow Maryland companies Under Armour and Lockheed Martin in developing technology to help the U.S. Speedskating team at the Winter Olympics.

Lanham-based Sigma Space said Friday its optical and mechanical engineers have been at work on a secret project since the fall to enhance skaters performance. Through its "Blade Runner" mission, the company aimed to build a tool that could polish skate blade sides, which never go through the sharpening common to blade bottoms.

The company, which makes instrumentation used in aerospace and defense applications, developed a tool flexible enough to offer enough polishing pressure for the blade sides as well bottoms. It's based on a concept developed in 2002 by Jim Lyons, a Sigma senior optical engineer.

"The speed skate polishing technology developed by Sigma Space Corporation represents a major leap forward in competition skate blade preparation," Finn Halvorsen, U.S. Speedskating's high performance long track managing director, said in a statement. "The technology designed by Sigma enables the skate blade to not only be polished to optical levels but also be prepared quickly between races."

Testing showed that the tool creates a polished surface that's about 30 times smoother than the standard skate blade on the bottom and 10 times smoother on the side.

U.S. speedskaters also will be wearing new high-tech uniforms designed to be the world's fastest by Baltimore-based sports brand Under Armour in a collaboration with Bethesda-based defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

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