Jun 11, 2015 | By Alec

Again and again we are reminded of the fact that just about everything can be 3D printed, as the recent attempts to 3D print actual comfortable and durable custom shoes illustrate. However, one student from the University of Illinois has steered 3D printing into a different but equally complex direction: 3D printed gloves. For Arielle Rausin, a junior at the College of Business, is part of the varsity wheelchair racing team, and 3D printed a unique racing glove perfect for her hand and the rigors of wheelchair racing. It is believed that this is the first 3D printed racing glove in existence.

As she explains on the website of the Illinois MakerLab, she had signed up for the Digital Making Class as a complete novice in 3D printing technology. ‘At the beginning of the course, we mostly focused on developing our understanding of 3D printing and the software we would be working with throughout the rest of the course. I am certainly no expert, but now I find I am comfortable working with Autodesk Fusion 360 and Geomagic, to create and manipulate my own 3D objects from scratch,’ she writes.

However, she found it exceptionally difficult to decide on for her semester long making project, something made more complicated by a field trip to the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology  with the assignment to bring something to scan. ‘I racked my brain for a while trying to come up with an object that was interesting and maybe held potential to be turned into something more,’ she writes. ‘Then later, at track practice, my coach suggested trying to scan one of the handmade gloves we use to race.’

While this might sound like a bit a strange thing to 3D print, these gloves need to be custom made for each racer, and come with a price tag of $350. ‘One pair will last a long time, but since they are so unique they can never be exactly duplicated. This sounded like the perfect kind of item to try and scan, because having a 3D model that you could print over and over again would open up many possibilities,’ she explains.

As this proved such a good challenge to undertake, Arielle and two others set out to 3D print it. ‘We were incredibly lucky and barely had to manipulate the design at all in Geomagic because the scanner was so precise. Surprisingly, the very first time we tried to print our glove, it worked!’ Arielle writes. Of course not all parts ere 3D printed, as she had to add some additional materials to generate the necessary grip: suede and rubber. Gluing these into place with contact cement, the initial glove proved to be very good for racing. ‘We’re happy to announce that the glove is still working perfectly after over 200 miles of force and exertion,’ she proudly states. Obviously, the next step was making another glove for her other hand, which required some mirroring they had never done. ‘Once we figured that out, I added the same extra materials and used the gloves to race in the 2015 Boston Marathon. They worked beautifully!’

As it turns out, 3D printing technology is thus exceptionally good at producing gloves that need to be as durable as possible. What’s more, they are also very lightweight (weighing just 70 grams each). ‘It may not sound like much, but this, I’ve noticed, makes a significant difference when using the gloves to climb hills and push at high speeds. Their lightweight quality also aids in injury prevention. It is common among wheelchair racers to get tendonitis in the wrist from overuse, but the 100 grams that the printed gloves shave off put less stress on the tendons and hopefully decrease the risk of injury,’ Arielle explains.

What’s more, the costs are very low at around $4 per glove, a far cry from the original $350. ‘The replicability is probably the greatest benefit here though. The fact that you could print multiple pairs of gloves for different weather conditions could be a huge advantage when racing. Some of the world’s best athletes lose important races because they weren’t prepared for the conditions, whether it was rain, humidity, or even snow,’ Arielle writes. The next step is therefore to get everyone on the Illinois racing team their own custom made 3D printed gloves, while they are even looking into business options for racers. It just goes to show what can be achieved with a 3D scanner and a 3D printer.

Watch Arielle talk about her 3D printed gloves here.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Luca wrote at 8/9/2016 10:47:47 PM:

Just to say well done to Arielle! I was really taken by your idea and how you turned it into reality thanks to 3D printing. Thumbs up!!

CAMILLE PATRICK wrote at 5/25/2016 11:44:40 PM:

Great work!

Mike wrote at 5/9/2016 10:44:39 PM:

This is for Arielle: Did you make your gloves in connection with this? How BMW Redesigned the Racing Chair for Paralympic Athletes http://www.inc.com/betsy-mikel/bmw-redesigns-the-racing-chair-for-paralympic-athletes-.html

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