By the time an athlete has reached the level of competing in the Olympics, they are already operating at the top of their field. As physical techniques are refined from arts to sciences, shaving a hundredth of a second off a run, or adding a tenth of a point to an athlete’s score is of paramount importance.
As competitors reach the seeming physical pinnacle of their fields, coaches and athletes alike are beginning to look at their equipment and asking how it too can be perfected. 3D printing has revolutionized the once tedious process of prototyping sports equipment followed by prohibitively long manufacturing times. Additionally, the adaptability of 3D printing allows teams to custom tailor the tools and apparel of each member.
- The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang provides a perfect case study for how this new technology is reshaping competitive sports. As 3D Printing Industry explains, 3D printing was used to rapidly prototype and print new gun stock designs for French biathlete Martin Fourcade. By slashing production times, Athletics 3D was able to rapidly respond to Fourcade’s requests. The resulting final design was tailored to his exact specifications. Custom rifle in hand, Fourcade went on to win his fifth gold medal in the biathlon this year.
- Over on the luge track in Pyeongchang, Sport Techie reports that the US team has partnered with Stratasys to greatly reduce the time needed to prototype and print custom molds for various luge designs. In a first for the team, Chris Madzer went on to win the silver medal in men’s singles luge.
- What an athlete wears can be as important as what they use. Take for example the Great Britain Cycling Team. As far back as 2012, Team GB began working with Crux Product Design. They used 3D scanning in tandem with 3D printing to create custom bike helmets. Each member’s helmet was perfectly fitted to their head, maximizing safety and aerodynamics. Bradley Wiggins road home with the gold in the men’s time trial event that year.
These examples illustrate 3D printing in this manner for everyday customers may seem like a faraway dream. As costs continue to decrease though, its use will spread. We look forward to the day when our tennis shoes are printed for our feet while we wait and ergonomic computer chairs work to address individual postures.