Add fencing to the list of sports 3D printing and 3D engineering is impacting.
Stratasys recently revealed that the University of Tsukuba (in Japan) used 3D printers to develop customized fencing equipment.
Norihisa Fujii, a professor at the University of Tsukuba, led a research team at the university as part of its advanced R&D program for sports science and Olympic training. The Faculty of Gymnastics is using an x 3D printer to produce new equipment for the team.
The Objet350 Connex has a 350 × 350 × 200 mm (13.8 × 13.8 × 7.9 in.) build tray and is capable of printing multiple materials in a single build, making it perfect for complex, assembled 3D prints with unique finishing properties.
The grip of a fencing foil must perfectly fit its fencer’s hand (for performance and protection). Known as the “hilt” of a foil, it is the only point of contact between the user and equipment. This indicates that comfort, shape, design and even style are integral elements that make the difference between victory and defeat.
Before 3D printing, there was only one generic hilt template that was universal to all foils (a specific-type of fencing sword)
Along with a customized handle, the team needed a non-slip surface to ensure a better grip.
"Players are not engineers. They talk about their requirements instinctively,” explained Mr. Osamu Takeda, a researcher who managed the modeling of the prototypes at the University of Tsukuba, Sports R&D Core. “So, bearing this in mind, we develop various patterns based on different assumptions. With the Objet Connex multi-material 3D Printer, we can do this easily. We can respond flexibly and promptly because the machine is so accurate."
Each hilt was scanned and reverse engineered from CAD data based on players’ requests. The result: over 70 prototypes were produced. Further changes were made to meet specific requests. Each member of the team received their own custom hilt
"Whatever the sport may be, it's all about designing customized equipment to enable the athlete to maximize his or her personal best," said Jon Cobb, Executive Vice President Marketing, Stratasys. "The accuracy of our technology and the durability and flexibility of our materials enable sports equipment designers to develop truly breakthrough concepts. Also, the fast turnaround time of 3D printing means that the athlete can try several design iterations until the equipment exactly matches personal preferences."
The Japanese fencing team eventually took the silver medal in the 2012 Olympics.
The University of Tsukuba is now exploring other 3D printing sports applications such as protective equipment for gymnasts, shoes for javelin throwers, triathlon wear, sailing masts, a footwork assessment system for badminton, and more.