It was anticipated that rapid prototyping would be used by a number of teams during the Rio Olympics, and the teams have not disappointed in revealing the technological advances achieved through 3D printing. The most common use of 3D printing with teams in Rio seems to have been in the category of apparel, although it was also used in various equipment, rewards presented to athletes from sponsors, and even the official 2016 Olympic logo used this ground-breaking technology to properly capture the games of Rio and the spirit of the games.
Rapid Prototyping Apparel
Due to its mass appeal, apparel has advanced the most to be able to be utilized on a larger scale during the Olympic Games in 2016 as a competitive advantage. A wide variety of sports and companies alike used rapid prototyping services to develop customized clothing and shoes to provide their athletes with unique advantages over other competitors not yet using 3D-printing technology. Some of the ways in which apparel is providing a competitive advantage for those who use them are by creating breathable material that allows athletes’ core body temperatures to remain lower than others. These athletes remain cool in general through ventilation and custom design and such designs minimize resistance of wind and water during specific events. Two of the most talked about advances were the introduction of Nike’s silicone protrusion cleats designed to redirect airflow making it easier for runners and Adidas’ specifically designed swim suit that allows swimmers to more easily maintain their optimal form throughout the race.
Rapid Prototyping Equipment
Equipment has not yet advanced to the level of apparel in many instances, however some 3D-printed equipment is being used in Olympic events. The parts that have been tested and perfected are providing significant advantages in a number of ways. The Japanese fencing team introduced custom swords that fit the individual grip of each team member in the 2012 Olympics securing them a medal placement. In this year’s 2016 games, the French cycling team has worked closely with rapid prototyping services to create strategic advantages to secure medal standings, as well. The French team is utilizing 3D-printed handlebars to secure an edge ahead of the competition. These custom handlebars use aerospace technology and engineering to optimize airflow and its lightweight provides additional time-reducing advantages. Rapid prototyping in cycling also reduces costs when a bike crashes or is damaged in transit and allows for greater customization to maximize the strengths of each individual.
Rapid Prototyping the Olympic Logo
The Rio Olympics is the first Olympic Games to features a logo in 3D, and it was accomplished with the assistance of 3D printing. Hundreds of individuals and businesses across Brazil competed to develop the logo of the Rio Olympics, and only one was able to capture the spirit of the Olympics and the essence of Rio perfectly in one artistic manner. The logo was inspired by the hearts and warmth of the Rio people, the beauty of the city, and the spirit of the games. The design was meant to capture these elements, as well as to inspire others and to provide a visualization that demonstrates other artistic aspects of Rio and Brazil. To accomplish all of these perspectives, only a 3D printer was able to produce the final results in the exemplary manner of which the visionaries dreamt.
Rewards & More
Rapid prototyping services are also being utilized in other aspects throughout the olympics. One of such ways is by company sponsors providing their winning athletes with one-of-a-kind prototypes of apparel that could very well be seen in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics; however, for now, these are exclusive items for medal placers that no one else in the world will have. Adidas is offering a revolutionary and exclusive 3D-printed shoe to their winners. The Paralympics are also expected to be featuring equipment and apparel designed by 3D printers to provide competitive advantages to these athletes, as well. And, even Michael Phelps was wearing one-of-a-kind specially designed 3D-printed shoes whenever he was out of the water. This is just a sign of what is yet to come pertaining to sports and rapid prototyping.
As athletes continue to use 3D-printed items and equipment, the more trainers and manufacturers are learning the ways in which rapid prototyping services can enhance the performance of each individual competitor, team, and country. The ways in which they assist vary from preventing further injury, reducing weight of equipment to increase speed, minimize cost, and much more. The introduction of 3D printing in the Olympics has only just begun. It is highly likely the Tokyo Games will feature many more ground-breaking advances with the help of rapid prototyping services the world over.
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