Customized 3D Printed Back Brace allows Paralympic Fencer to Compete at the Top
Sports & Medical
The Paralympic Games, much like the Olympic Games, is a display of the world’s most elite athletes and their years of hard work and physical training. This type of global sporting competition offers opportunities for athletes with a range of physical challenges. During the 2016 Paralympic Games, Stratasys aided a wheelchair fencer with the help of their 3D printing technology to overcome a design challenge in her journey towards an Olympic medal.
Polina RoÅ¾kova is a Latvian wheelchair fencer with whom Stratasys created a custom 3D-printed backbrace for during both training and performances at the Paralympic Games in 2016. Using a 3D scan of RoÅ¾kova’s lower back, Stratasys’ 3D technology was able to design and print a custom-fitted, one to one back brace specifically for her lower back to limit any discomfort or strain during physical action. Using Nylon 12 printing material, the brace was printed as a flexible and lightweight component to RoÅ¾kova’s success.
JÄnis JÄtnieks, the leader of the 3D printed back brace project explains, “The conventional back brace Polina was using was huge and did not fit her shape at all, causing her discomfort and bruises in everyday life. It was limiting her movement in fencing and hindering her performance, which is not great when you’re preparing for the Paralympics. Fortunately, we were able to help! 3D printing gives us the ability to quickly and cost-effectively produce one-off solutions customized to the individual, and having access to Stratasys Nylon 12 material was crucial to giving her the levels of comfort and freedom of movement required to compete with the very best in her field.”
Using the Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D Printer, RoÅ¾kova’s back brace was printed in a single build over a span of a few hours. With the speed of each print, RoÅ¾kova was able to experiment with different variations and versions of the back support in order to fit her needs. Quick iterations were made possible with the quick print speed and RoÅ¾kova was able to find the perfect model to train and compete with in the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
She writes, “Throughout my years as a professional wheelchair fencer, I have been looking for an alternative, and most importantly, sports-appropriate lower back brace to allow me to fence and move freely without any restraints or pain”. RoÅ¾kova adds, “As the sport puts a lot of train on the back, I also need a support that could be replaced easily if it broke during training or competition. I’m ecstatic with the result- not only is the 3D printed back brace visually appealing, but it gives me a level of freedom unparalleled to anything I have ever used before. I feel better equipped than ever to realize my goals and be a champion.”
Andy Milddeton, President of Stratasys EMEA says, “Polina’s story is one that embodies all the great things about 3D printing and its ability to truly shape lives . . . Being able to quickly 3D print low-cost solutions customized specifically to the person takes us away from a world where we settle for small, medium or large, giving consumers more options than ever before. We are extremely proud to be a part of this project and help Polina overcome a design challenge, allowing her to compete at the top.”
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