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US Luge Team Uses 3D Printing at 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.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of CNET

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