Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printing at the Olympics


Tessa Blokland  


The summer of 2021 was a summer full with sport. From 23 July up to 5 September, sport fans and fanatics could watch the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2020, which took in Tokyo. Sportsmen and women from all over the world are competing with each other to set record after record after hours of training sessions, and often with the help of the latest innovative and technological support. What I like about this high quality level of sport is that the equipment for each individual can be customized and personalized to each atlete’s wishes. I have found some really interesting examples of 3D printed personalized equipment at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.

World shooting champion Céline Goberville partnered with Athletics 3D to create a highly customized 3D printed pistol grip. The custom ergonomic grip is designed to help the French athlete achieve the most accurate shot in her chosen event: 10-meter air pistol shooting. According to Clement Jacquelin, CEO of Athletics 3D, the company that made the custom pistol grip, design changes in such equipment are often dictated by preference, rather than science. Goberville wanted her grip to be as smooth as possible. After 3D printing the grip, the team started a two-stage smoothing process: first the grip was manually sanded with sandpaper, and in a second stage, chemically smoothed with acetone vapors.

Also the Korean archery team is heavily supported by technology, such as artificial intelligence, biometric information, big data, and 3D printing. For more than 30 years, Hyundai has been providing technical support to the Korean Archery Association. What you see here is a 3D printed grip attached to the bow. You can imagine that these grips vary from player to player, regarding the desired shape, material, and surface finishes. With the continuing development of new 3D printable materials, the 3D printed grips were also available in a newly developed material, aluminide, an aluminum and polyamide combination, and solid wood and urethane to deliver a better grip (also top image).

Also in the Paralympics, 3D printing is used to customize equipment parts. Based on this own experience as an athlete, Joe Townsend (he competed in the 2016 Paralympic Games) now designs and creates custom bespoke components for para-athletes world wide. Here you see a 3D printed customized hand grip component in Onyx material.

The right shape and material in the Games can make a huge different. This 3D printed rudder blade suspension (or at least a similar version) has helped propel the Australian sailing team to victory at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The rudder blade suspension was manufactured by aluminum specialist Fehrmann Alloys using its high-performance AlMgty alloy to the request of Hamburg-based boatyard Ziegelmayer, the world’s leading manufacturer of Olympic sailboats in the 470 class.The 3D printed component was installed on the boat of the Australian sailing team for their Olympic campaign, later helping them to the top of the winner’s podium.

The last 3D printed example has actually nothing to do with personalized equipment, but everything to give the winners a podium for their achievements. Over the course of nine months, the Japanese public donated the equivalent of 400,000 bottles of laundry detergent via more than 2,000 collection boxes that were installed in department stores and schools across Japan (which is already an achievements in itself!). The bottles were recycled, turned into filaments, 3D printed into small cube-shaped modules, and connected to form the 98 podiums that were used during the Games. Japanese artist Asao Tokolo designed the modules, which were 3D-printed with the help of a team led by Hiroya Tanaka, the founder of Japan’s first Fab Lab. According to the website, the pedestals will ultimately be turned back into shampoo and detergent bottles by consumer goods company Procter & Gamble, which is an Olympic sponsor.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3D Printing at the Olympics

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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