MAKING THE MOLD

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Ski Factory

Factories that manufacture molds, prototypes, race skis and other specialty skis are often located in the same building as research and development, which allows immediate communication between CAD engineers and process engineers such as Charles Guirao. He builds ski molds using CAD as the basis for computer-aided manufacturing, or CAM. Directed by the engineers' computer drawings, cutting machines with high-powered drills carve the shape of a ski from a block of aluminum to make the mold.

Each ski model needs, at the very least, several molds (one for every size) to accommodate the lengths that are offered. Molds are polished and either used in the same facility or sent to wherever the mass-produced skis (called production skis) are built. Aside from their main headquarters, most ski companies own satellite factories in Eastern Europe or Asia, where labor costs are lower.