The British Olympic cycling team recently won 14 medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic summer games. Eight of the 12 were gold, and although it may come as a surprise, they had some outside help.
Before the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the British Cycling Team found a unique way to help save those precious fractions of a second: improve the aerodynamics of their helmets.
The team employed computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies from the Sports Engineering Research Group (SERG) at the University of Sheffield.
A combination of 3D laser scanning, 3D reverse engineering from Geomagic, and 3D prototyping visualization software produced results that also helped the team earn four medals in the 2004 Olympic Summer Games.
So how did they do this?
To start, the Brittish Olympic cycling team wanted to see which helmet model was best for their athletes in terms of aerodynamic efficiency (minimal wind resistance). These helmets had to pass a safety test, however, which reduced their performance value.
SERG's Dr. John Hart said CAD files were not an option for creating the digital models needed for CFD analysis. This was because there was not enough time (at the time, there were only two weeks to the Olympics) to model helmets from scratch. Instead, experts decided that it was best to laser scan the current models of helmets and, using Geomagic Studio software, reverse engineer them.
“CAD engineers work at different tolerances than those required for CFD analysis,” Hart says. “Even if we had the CAD files for the helmets, we would have had to spend a great deal of time cleaning up the model to make it watertight. Reverse engineering the helmets and surfacing them in Geomagic Studio guaranteed a highly detailed, watertight model in less time.”
In depth information and minute details were recorded in the roughly 20-minutes it took to scan each helmet model.
SERG also scanned each athletes head to create a completely custom fit for each Britain’s cyclists. Rather than using a pre-existing,
general mould, the custom protective head ware was even more light-weight and comfortable.
Next camethe editing process.
“Geomagic Studio's editing tools and ability to handle large, complex data sets made it a great match for this project,” says Hart. “We used the tools to refine scan data around the ears and in tight gaps, which enabled us to maintain a high degree of geometric realism on such a challenging human scan with nearly six million raw data points.”
Using wake structured and other aerodynamic flow measures, the new helmet recommendations SERG made contributed to the team's medal haul in the Olympic cycling events (2004 and 2008).