US Olympic luge team competes with 3D printed sleds from Stratasys

Using Stratasys 3D printing technology, the luge team can rapidly and cost-effectively build and test customized racing sleds.

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Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Additive technology company Stratasys has teamed with the US Olympic luge team to 3D print customized racing sleds for each athlete.
  • Customized luge sleds made with 3D printing can travel at speeds of about 87 mph.

The US Olympic luge team is going for gold with the help of 3D printing. As the team competes at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, athletes are using customized racing sleds created with additive technology from Stratasys that are tailored to their individual bodies.

Using Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printing technology, the luge team can rapidly and cost-effectively build and test customized racing sleds, according to a press release.

As 3D printing advances, the technology has proven to have a number of enterprise applications, including for rapid prototyping and medical device testing. However, it's been slow to catch on: Only 18% of organizations said they were actively using 3D printers as part of business operations in 2016, according to a Tech Pro Research survey. Projects like this could help bring the technology to the attention of more professionals and consumers alike.

SEE: 3D printing: A primer for business and technology professionals (Tech Pro Research)

The partnership could also help convince professionals and consumers that 3D printed products are indeed safe to use for a variety of activities, including potentially dangerous ones.

Tech has made a number of appearances at the Olympics this year, as noted by our sister site CNET. Members of the US ski team have been using virtual reality (VR) to train for the games. Self-driving buses are transporting people between event locations. And some of the first 5G networks are being tested at the games, as reported by our sister site ZDNet.

"Partnering with USA Luge highlights a perfect example of an environment where our additive manufacturing technology enables customers to meet critical needs in specialized applications," said Scott Sevcik, vice president of manufacturing solutions at Stratasys. "We're proud to partner with Team USA, one of the best teams in winter sports, to help them apply the power of FDM technology to keep moving faster, in the shop, and on the track."

The FDM process allows for levels of customization not possible with standard composite fabrication, according to the release. This is critical for success with racing sleds that travel at speeds of around 87 mph.

3D printing was used to create mandrels at the front of the sled, called the Doubles Tower, which are used to correctly position athletes' legs during competition. The team also used additive technology to print the layup and sacrificial tools used to manufacture the carbon-fiber composite sleds.

Using Stratasys machines, the team was able to 3D print the mandrel, layup and cure the composite structure, and wash out the tooling material, in less than one week, the release noted. Based on the success of that project, the team tested 3D printing the entire sled body layup tool, adjusting the height based on each athlete.

"Competitive luge racing is an extremely demanding sport where fractions of a second are the

difference between winning and losing. Our riders depend on comfortable, aerodynamic sled

designs to win races," US luge technical programs manager Jon Owen said in the release. "In teaming with Stratasys, we've become much more competitive on the world stage - continuously adjusting designs and running them on the track much faster than traditional processes. Additionally, we've balanced both comfort and performance by tailoring the sled to each rider's body, while minimizing fabrication cost and time."

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Image: Stratasys