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Special Effects technician makes Jumping Discs , May 18, 2010

“Talk about jumping for joy!” exclaims Olov Nylander, the special effects technician who now manufactures and sells thousands of “jumping discs” to American companies. The discs are labeled with company logos and distributed at conventions, or used as calling cards by magicians, entertainers and others who want to be remembered in a special way.

Nylander has been in business for himself since 1986 and came across the jumping discs already in the 80’s. A company in New Jersey sold the discs and Nylander imported and retailed them to customers in his hometown of Umeå, Sweden. Suddenly the man who made the discs passed away, and even though many tried to pick up his enterprise with his production equipment, no one succeeded and the machine was sold for scrap metal.

In the meantime Nylander founded his own company, Special Effects. He constructed special effects for several feature films, including Poltergeist 2, The Abyss, Big Trouble in Little China and numerous commercials. All the while he was thinking about the jumping discs, made of so-called bi-metal, just like a thermostat. He figured he ought to be able to solve this technical challenge, since he considered himself to be so creative in his regular profession. While no one else seemed to be selling the discs he constantly took small steps to learn more about the physics involved in getting discs to jump.

“The most amusing thermostat in the world” is what Nylander calls it. “The disc bulges imperceptibly when you hold it between your fingers, and you place it on a table. As the disc cools off the bi-metal returns to its original opposite bulge with a snap, and it jumps up to three feet in the air,” Nylander explains. “You can imagine what a good advertising space this is, because anyone interested in science will show it to their like-minded friends. And then the discussion starts about what makes it jump, how the delay comes about, and the whole time the people are staring at the logo on top of the disc.”

Solving this problem was not a walk in the park. It has taken Nylander nearly 20 years of pondering, metal punch manufacturing, sample testing, studies of thermal expansion charts, and conversations with materials experts, label makers and other clever people for him to solve how to make metal discs “fly” on their own. But it is a perfect item to ship globally since hundreds of them fit in an ordinary envelope. And now there is only one manufacturer in the whole world for this specialty product.

“I probably have the most charming customers in the world” claims Nylander. “Every week I receive e-mails from grateful people who’ve kept a jumping disc from their childhood. Now they have become entrepreneurs of their own and want to spread their company name with an unusual advertising give-away.”

The manufacturing space is crammed with curious gadgets, looking quite like an inventor’s workshop with a glorious variety of machines, hissing devices and shaking tables designed to carry on the production of the logo-branded jumping discs. Nylander takes great joy in exporting jumping discs back to the country from which he once used to buy them.

Special Effects has since 1986 provided technical services for film, TV and stage. Lately Special Effects has solved production problems, built prototypes and taken on conventional industrial demands with creativity and a different viewpoint, distinguishing the company as a reliable troubleshooter of unusual challenges.


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Olov Nylander

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