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Rapid Prototyping, 3D Printing & Rio Olympics


3D printing and rapid prototyping are becoming synonymous with the Olympics and sports today. Teams, athletes, and businesses are all capitalizing on the technology advances available through rapid prototyping services in an effort to gain an edge on the competition. This year in Rio, you will see 3D printing being used in equipment, during testing, and even during the Paralympics. The advantages of rapid prototyping are proving worthwhile investments for athletes and sponsors alike.


Rapid Prototyping Equipment


With each passing Olympics brings more equipment being produced by rapid prototyping services. In 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, the company Speedo provided goggles to various swimmers that were designed and manufactured by 3D printers. In the London games of 2012, the famed Trek biking company provided printed customized bicycle helmets and bike parts to withstand the rough terrain, and the Fujii Olympics provided the Japanese fencing team with customized printed fencing swords which resulted in a silver medal finish. This year, Nike has worked closely with one Olympian to feature 3D-printed shoes to be used in track and field events. As the Rio games commence, it is expected that a number of athletes will reveal additional ways they are now using rapid prototyping to improve performance. And, it is expected that a number of teams will use 3D printers for emergency spare parts for athletes already using printed items from cleats to handlebars. A number of new rapid prototyping items have yet to revealed as to whether or not they will be used at this year’s Olympics.


Design & Testing

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The training and conditioning of athletes is essential to greatness, however rapid prototyping can help to provide an edge to winners. One of the ways 3D printing is aiding Olympian performances is by testing various products and designs of equipment during training and conditioning. Trainers and rapid prototyping experts are working closely with Olympic athletes to determine the ways their bodies move during their sport to improve upon existing equipment and to customize new equipment for each individual. Many products have been in testing and development for over a decade and may take another Olympic cycle before they are perfected for use in such a prestigious event. Some equipment, such as shoes, have far greater competition, mass marketability and are ready to be revealed this year, as well as being released to the general mass consumer market. The designs and testing of customized 3D-printed items may become just as competitive as the athletic events themselves in the near future.


Paralympics Equipment


A number of athletes have been training and testing 3D-printed prosthetics to possibly be used in the Paralympics in Rio. For a number of years, companies and engineers have been working to create prosthetics to make them more affordable and available for everyone. In the past, people did not have a lot of quality options for their prosthetics. They were often expensive and unable to be greatly customized for each individual’s needs. Children often have the greatest difficulty because families were often unable to afford new prosthetics as their children continued to grow. Another issue was the price tag. Prosthetics of yesterday could cost up to $100,000. Today, rapid prototyping services are able to provide highly customized prosthetics at a highly affordable cost compared to the past. This new and improved process will be able to provide people all over the world with the opportunity to use prosthetics to improve their quality of life. And now, Paralympians are looking to use the advanced designs to improve their performance and to become more competitive.

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Rapid Prototyping Advantages


The advantages of Olympians and Paralympians using rapid prototyping are increasing on a daily basis. One of the greatest advantages is the customization of equipment. Each athlete has a unique body, unique strengths, unique weaknesses, and unique movements. The customization of equipment allows Olympic athletes to improve their individual performance based on such attributes and limitations. The way a runner’s foot rests in the blocks at the start of a race may provide a split-second advantage that can win or lose a race. With customized shoes, a runner may be able to obtain a significant advantage. An additional advantage is simply access to new technology. Many countries and teams with smaller budgets will soon be able to have access to much of the same technology as wealthier countries, which is likely to create more competitive and exciting events. As Olympic 3D technologies continue to improve, the more exciting the Olympics will become.


Olympians and Paralympians who use rapid prototyping services are proving to have a competitive advantage. While 3D printing cannot make an average athlete into an Olympian, it can provide an exceptional athlete with minute advantages that can make the difference between a gold medal and a silver medal.



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