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Marching in with 3D Printing

This month, we take a closer look at how the 3D printing industry is affecting the industries of transport and movement.  How is 3D printing allowing us to move faster – and in more efficient ways?

Well, our journey begins at this year’s Olympics…

CNET reports from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.  The US luge team has collaborated with Stratasys in order to tinker with their sleds.

“Luge is a sport involving one or two-person sleds that can reach speeds of nearly 90 miles per hour.  Athletes race face-up and feet-first down an icy track.  They steer the sled by either using their calves to flex the runners or by using their shoulders to shift their weight.”

Stratasys and the US luge team are 3D printing tools “employed in the making of racing sleds, which means not only the sled’s body but also the ‘tower’ at the front of a doubles sled where athletes position their legs.”

During the creation of sled parts, “a mold, also called a tool, is created to form the part’s shape.  Any design change in the sled calls for a new tool, which can normally take several weeks to create.  But Stratasys was able to 3D print the tools for a sled in less than a week.”  Thanks to 3D printing’s flexibility, more iterations will be available for the athletes and their teams.

Indeed, while before generic sleds were utilized, they can now “be made as long or as wide as an individual athlete, and in a fraction of the time.”  As Gordy Sheer, Marketing Director for USA Luge, and a 1998 Doubles Luge Silver Medalist explains: “we need precision and we also need the ability to make tweaks, and 3D printing is where it’s at for this kind of thing.  As we learn more about aerodynamics and optimizing our designs, it’s nice to be able to have the ability to make those changes quickly.”

Stratasys Applications Engineer David Dahl explains how “using 3D printing to make little changes in aerodynamics and performance can have a big impact.  When you’re dealing with fractions of a second on the track, a little change here or there could be the difference between a gold medal or last place.”

Dahl envisions a not-too-distant future where the whole sled could be 3D printed: “there could be a point where you take a scan of the athlete and you’re able to print a slid customized and tailored to their body shape in the most optimal aerodynamics possible.”

Elsewhere in the world of movement – 3D printing isn’t just interrupting Olympic Athlete’s lives – but everyday people’s lives as well.

3DPrinting Industry writes of the recent launch of the Adidas AlphaEDGE 4D LTD 3D printed running shoe.  This shoe, which marks yet another collaboration between Carbon and Adidas, features 3D printed midsoles using Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology.

The AlphaEDGE shoe launched on February 17th for $300.  “Carbon and Adidas’ partnership first came to light with the Futurecraft 4D range in April 2017, combining Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) enabled DLS 3D printing, a Speedcell system, and a Smart Part Washer into the process.”

This allowed for “the development of intricate lattice midsoles, which took into account the movement, cushioning, stability, and comfort needs of the wearer.”  Following an initial batch of 300 pairs of Futurecraft 4D running shows, a further 5,000 pairs were released.  These 3D printed shoes were a success.

Now, the Alpha 4D LTD running shoe is available, featuring “a midsole made of UV-curable resin and polyurethane mixture, arranged in complex lattice structures.  [These midsoles] are specifically tuned to provide superior, controlled energy return.”  The shoes are “available in core black, grey, aero, and ash green.”

“Carbon and Adidas, [with the help of fast production speeds and demand vastly outpacing supply], are building up momentum for a future manufacturing process, whereby Adidas footwear is bespoke-produced, according to the individual needs of each athlete’s foot.”

From shoes to cars – the world of additive manufacturing knows no bounds.

3Ders caught wind of an exciting new development for Dubai’s 3D Printing Strategy.  Those invested in the city’s economic development are excited to have yet another example of what 3D printing can do.

“Immensa Technology Labs, a 3D printing company based in Dubai, [and founded in 2016] has 3D printed parts for a Toyota GT86 race car.  The vehicle, driven by Mohammed Abdulghaffar Hussain, raced to victory at the Yas Marina Circuit in the TRD 86 Cup.”  The Yas Marina Circuit, for those unaware, is a winding racetrack serving “as the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”  It is not for the faint of heart.

In a first for the United Arab Emirates, Immensa Technology Labs “provided 3D printed parts for the Toyota, doing its bit to support the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy while improving the performance of the vehicle.”

Immensa’s CEO Fahmi Al-Shawwa elaborates: “we are proud to be the first 3D printing company in the UAE to apply this new technology to the local automotive industry.  We are confident additive manufacturing can enhance traditional manufacturing processes, reduce costs, redefine productivity, and fuel innovation across all sectors, and we are delighted to have proved this in partnership with Hussain.”

Hussain, the driver, who also happens to be the managing director of Green Coast Enterprises and CEO of Creek Capital, added he was “pleased to have been part of the milestone moment.  3D printing provided a great turnaround time for parts that we were not able to source locally and others that were produced to a much higher quality than the original parts.”

Even well-established automobile makers are utilizing the wonders of 3D printing in quite innovative ways.

CNET reports on a new announcement just recently made by Porsche, concerning their classic car division.  Porsche Classic is now using 3D printing in order to produce hard to find parts.

Porsche Classic’s parts supplies issues are now a thing of the past: “whether it’s plastic or steel, Porsche’s additive manufacturing is capable of reproducing a part to its correct specification, which is generally far less expensive than rebooting old production lines or ordering far more parts than owners will ever need.”

Porsche Classic is using 3D printing in order to reproduce both metal and plastic parts.  To create metal parts, Porsche Classic is using selective laser melting 3D printing, while they are using selective laser sintering 3D printing for plastic parts.

At this time, “Porsche Classic only 3D print nine different parts – like 959’s clutch release lever, for example, which is no longer being manufactured.  But [the division] is looking at another 20 parts to see if 3D printing is a feasible solution to mitigating supply issues.  Thankfully, if a part gets the green light, all Porsche needs to get started is a 3D scan or design data for the part, and the printers can get to work.”

This is yet another example of how 3D printing can become so pivotal for companies (and their customers) searching for hard to find and hard to replace parts.  The technology’s flexibility is unmatched.

Whether it’s Olympic lugers, footwear, cars, or any number of transportation modes, the world of 3D printing is hard at work advancing its various technologies.  Who knows what 3D printed marvel will speed toward us next…

Image Courtesy of Porsche and CNET

Quotes Courtesy of CNET, Adidas, 3DPrinting Industry, 3Ders, and Porsche

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