Navigating Harsh Waters with Precision Engineering

Competitor Swim, the official lane line of the NCAA and USA Swimming, is driven by a commitment to offering innovative and exceptional quality pool equipment. Acknowledging the challenges inherent in traditional lane line tensioners, such as the tedious installation and removal of lane lines in multi-use pools, the Competitor Swim team aimed to wow their customers with a new and improved design. In addition to achieving increased user-friendliness, Competitor Swim knew selecting materials that would withstand the harsh pool environment was no easy endeavor. Eager to navigate these challenges and achieve a cutting-edge product, Competitor Swim engaged Design Central to design and engineer the ideal solution.

  • Competitor Swim
  • Commercial
  • Research
  • Product Design
  • Engineering
  • Prototyping
  • User Experience

Objective: Design and engineer a familiar, ergonomic tensioner built to withstand prolonged exposure to harsh pool environments.

Deep dive into design, engineering, and prototyping

The project kicked off with the goal of replacing the current crank system with a user-friendly tensioner. This change would significantly improve efficiency for facilities like community centers that frequently adjust lane configurations. Design Central initiated the change by leveraging cargo tensioners' familiar and ubiquitous design into a new concept explicitly adapted for lane line installation and capable of withstanding demanding pool environments. After reviewing and analyzing possible designs, we selected a core direction for the new tensioner that would provide the best combination of familiarity, ease of use (eliminating the need for extra tools) and robustness in the target environment. Our team also explored ergonomics and brand-centric aesthetics to enhance the overall user experience.

Expanding material research for pool environments

In contrast to the considerable amount of material science research available for long-term exposure of various materials to fresh and saltwater environments, there was a noticeable gap in the study of long-term, submerged exposure to pool water (chlorine, bromine). Our team embraced the unique challenges posed by this harsh environment and seized the opportunity to trailblaze the way for future Competitor Swim products capable of withstanding these elements. Having first leveraged the available research, we then undertook our own material research to learn more about the challenges associated with long-term exposure of metals, plastics, and elastomers in various pool environments. This research revealed challenges, including general corrosion, galvanic corrosion, and galling associated with relative motions of stainless-steel materials under load in pool water.

Our team navigated a solution by conducting long-term environmental exposure with various material combination prototypes in Competitor Swim’s high-concentration test tank and at local pools.

The final lap

As a result, our team successfully identified the optimal material combination for all parts to minimize the risks of general corrosion, galvanic corrosion, and galling. We also remained mindful of manufacturing implications associated with the selected materials and the overall manufacturing cost.

Design Central is proud to have helped Competitor Swim achieve a cutting-edge product with numerous advantages for pool facility managers and event organizers. These include increased safety, enhanced user-friendliness, greater durability, and a streamlined installation/removal process that reduces reliance on tools. This innovation underscores Competitor Swim's commitment to pushing boundaries and setting a new industry standard. Our team is delighted to have contributed to bringing the revolutionary EZ-Tensioner to market.