3D Printed Soccer Shin Guards, Baseball Bats, Running Shoes and more…
Additive manufacturing goes all the way back to the 1980s when its procedures and first use cases were formally recorded. But 3D printing, one of several known additive manufacturing techniques, didn’t reach its current level of popularity and use until only very recently. 3D printers were just too expensive, too technical for most and their use cases very specific for the public to become familiar with them.
But now, 3D printing technology has reached the point where industrial parts of virtually any type and mass produced products like weapons, key machinery and a lot more can be completely produced by different 3D printing techniques.
Sports gear and athletic equipment are among those in the “a lot more” umbrella, as different companies, from brand names like Nike to startups like Bangor, are increasingly resorting to 3D printing, not just for designing and rapid prototyping purposes, but also for the whole manufacturing process. The cool thing is that a new trend of hinking, redesigning and improving has started that puts 3D printers to good use for the sports industry and its fans.
Take for example Zweikamp. The Austrian startup is one of the newest companies joining the club of designers and manufacturers that 3D prints sports equipment. Zweikampf is utilizing a special XRD technology in combination with the miracles of 3D printing to produce a shin guard for soccer players that beats almost every other brand name on the market when it comes to creating lighter and thinner shin guards. Their end product beats the competition not only in physical terms but is also slick-chic and aesthetically pleasing.
The shin guard is made up of three layers:
To my knowledge, Zweikampf’s recent 3D printed product is the first to open the battlefield for 3D printed shin guards but it is really just a tiny part of the whole trend, as new 3D printed goods and services aimed at the sports market are appearing virtually every other day.
For instance, take New Balance and Under Armour. Both among the big players of the running shoe production industry are already making some of their products entirely through 3D printing. The former recently announced and sold a limited edition running shoe with a full-length 3D printed midsole. The latter, in a similar gesture, announced an almost identical product created in collaboration with Autodesk, that went into production for a limited number and was instantly sold out.
In addition, GuardLab, a company dedicated to creating custom mouthguards has started using 3D molds to create bespoke mouth guards that really fit each individual player. It is noteworthy that companies like New Balance, GuardLab, Under Armour as like as Zweikampf are not exclusively trying to sell new products, but rather, are in the sports equipment market to enhance established products through cutting-edge technology as much as possible. Considering that product enhancement has at least become one of the major purposes of 3D printing in the sports gear and athletic equipment industry, one can imagine an endless series of possibilities that can be accomplished.
And these possibilities aren’t only endless. They are inevitable too, as 3D printing enters a vast array of markets it is only a matter time before the whole market is reshaped. Sooner than later, if not already, we will have everything sports related 3D printed, from baseball bats to customized 3D printed jerseys. 3D printed surfboard fins, 3D printed arm braces in the case of injury (at least for Panthers’ linebacker Thomas Davis), and a bespoke 3D printed shoe by Nike for Allyson Felix are already a reality.
Anyway, as 3D printing becomes more capable and less expensive every day, leaving rapid prototyping laboratories to reach consumer households, technology will once again bypass the new of yesterday and shape the reality of future before our eyes.
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