The American Luge team at the winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have been using 3D printed composite materials for rapid luge customisation.
Stratasys has teamed with USA Luge to inject additive manufacturing into its quest for gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea this month. Harnessing the power of Stratasys Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) 3D printing technology, the luge team is now able to more rapidly and cost-effectively build and test customised racing sleds tailored to the body of each athlete.
USA Luge is tapping into a wide range of high-performance materials from Stratasys to 3D print key layup and sacrificial tools used during manufacturing of carbon fibre composite sleds. The advanced functionality of FDM enables an unprecedented level of customisation not possible with standard composite fabrication – a critical success factor in racing sleds that often travel at speeds upwards of 87 miles per hour.
Additive manufacturing is key for engineering mandrels for the racing team’s Doubles Tower – a composite structure at the sled’s front, used to accurately position riders’ legs during competition. Extremely difficult to fabricate due to complex, trapped-tool geometry – the structure guarantees proper athlete fit and position while racing. Using the Stratasys ST-130 sacrificial (wash-out) tooling material, team designers were able to 3D print the mandrel, layup and cure the composite structure and wash-out the tooling material – all in less than one week.
“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,” said USA Luge Technical Programmes Manager, Jon Owen. “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 minimising fabrication cost and time.”
Based on the success of Doubles Tower construction, Team USA has pushed the technology even further by 3D printing the entire sled body layup tool. This particular design incorporates a removable middle section, allowing tool length to adjust based on each rider’s height. Driven by these efforts during prototyping, designers are currently using this same tooling for final sled components during competition.
“Stratasys customers push the limits of performance, efficiency, and reliability for 3D printed rapid tooling, prototypes and production parts. Partnering with USA Luge highlights a perfect example of an environment where our additive manufacturing technology enables customers to meet critical needs in specialised 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.”