The Olympic Games and the Winter Olympics are the absolute peak of competitive sport. Olympians are the cream of international talent in their respective disciplines. Not only are they the best of the best but if there is one competition in their careers that they dedicate even more focus and determination to preparing for and competing in it is the Olympic Games. It’s no coincidence that statistics demonstrate that the number of world records broken during the Olympics is disproportionately high in comparison to other elite competitions on the calendar. This is the one competitors are up for more than any other.
At the elite end of sport, the margins between success and failure are often miniscule. Fractions of a second matter and, therefore, gaining as much control as possible over that variables that can have an influence on those finest of margins matters. As such, it is no surprise that the teams responsible for coaching their country’s Olympians and making sure everything else is in place to give them the greatest chance of success are increasingly turning to technology when looking for an edge.
One such example is how Team USA’s luge team turned to the latest technology in the world of 3D printing in the lead up to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics currently taking place in South Korea. A luge is a light toboggan or sled built for either one or two people and competitors compete for the fastest time down a course that is the same as that used for the bobsleigh event. Industrial 3D printing company Stratasys has been working with the luge team to help design the optimal luge for racers.
Stratasys scanned the bodies of the luge Olympians and used those to create molds using the company’ proprietary ‘Fused Deposition Modelling’ technology, at the cutting edge of 3D printing. 3D printing technology’s advantage is that molds for different parts of the luges the team were using could be iterated much more quickly and cheaply. This meant the team could try out different combinations of luge components in their search for optimisation while training in the run up to the Winter Olympics.
While this year the latest 3D printing technology has been used to create only the molds used in the manufacturing of the luges’ component parts, things are expected to have taken a step further by the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Stratasys Senior Director of Composites Tim Schniepp commented:
“We’ll work our way up to more important parts. We’re absolutely working up to printing the sleds themselves.”