Getting Ready for the Olympics with 3D printed sport equipment

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games have just started and as might be anticipated, we are starting to discover how 3D printing has played a role in pre-selections and current competitions of certain participants.

So far, we were just aware that 98 3D printed podiums have been fabricated to reward athletes. Today, we learn that certain sport equipment produced with 3D printing have supported participants like  Celine Goberville in their participation.

Goberville is a French 10 m air pistol shooter who won a bronze medal at the European Shooting Championships with a pistol grip 3D printed. For Celine, the event was the last final test before the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Here’s how she fared in the finals and how the grip’s design evolved based on the conclusions her team drew analyzing her performance.

Pistol grips smoothed in the Apoller. The grip prior to smoothing on the left. The smoothed grip on the right.

After the first series of 5 shots, she was leading the pack with 51.5 points – 1.4 points ahead of Carina Wimmer representing Germany and 1.9 points ahead of Victoria Chaika representing Belarus. Her lead continued on in the second series of five shots. Celine was still in the first place, but Wimmer managed to close the gap separating them to just 0.3 points. There was also a change on the third place with Russia’s Vtialina Batsarashkina taking it from Belarusian shooter, loosing only 1.1 points to the leader. With Celine on the lead, the contest entered its most tense, elimination stage.

The European championship was the last major tournament before the Olympics and, once back home, we got back to the drawing board to improve Celine’s 3D printed pistol grip”, says Clement Jacquelin, the CEO of Athletics 3D, a company that made the custom pistol grip Celine Goberville is currently using.

Final pistol grips Celine Goberville uses at Tokyo Olympics

According to Jacquelin, design changes in such equipment are often dictated by preference, rather than science.

In shooting sports, there are top-level athletes who prefer the grip rough. This way, they told me, they could hold it firmly with no worries about the weapon slipping away from their hands. Celine, however, thinks differently. She wants the grip to be as smooth as possible. So, the changes we made to the grip after the championship went in that direction – we were working to make it as smooth as possible. And to achieve this we used the Zortrax Apoller SVS post-processing device”, says Jacquelin.

 Once the sanding was done, it was placed in the Apoller for chemical smoothing with acetone vapors.

“The grip has a few more precise parts, especially at places where it is attached to the barrel and where internal batteries and electronics fit in. One of the key reasons behind using the Apoller for this project was that it can vary the amount of solvent applied to different areas of the model. This way, the grip was properly smoothed and all the necessary details were kept intact with unchanged dimensions and geometry”, claims Jacquelin.

Getting Ready for the Olympics

Once we got the process right to achieve the desired surface finish, we made another, spare grip in the exact same way”, says Jacquelin. 

The spare grip was necessary since there is always a risk of sports equipment getting damaged in transit or during the competition.

I think it’s just another advantage of using 3D printers in such projects. You have a digital base of models saved on your hard drive or in the cloud and you can recreate each one of them in no time when necessary. And quite often it proves necessary because we’ve had multiple cases where the equipment got damaged  by rough, careless handling at the airport”, says Jacquelin.  

Celine Goberville is currently training with the revised, smoother pistol grips. According to Jacquelin, there are going to be no further design changes before the Olympics.

We have the final design nailed. At this point, Celine needs to familiarize herself with the grip, train with it as much as she could and feel at ease with using it. She says she’s perfectly happy with our work. Further design changes will be considered after the Olympics. For now, we are happy with what we have done and aiming for Olympic gold”, says Jacquelin.

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