Feb 4, 2016 | By Kira

Carolina Panthers’ all-pro linebacker Thomas Davis might soon become the first NFL player to wear a piece of 3D printed equipment during a game—and it’s not just any game: we’re talking about Super Bowl 50, the American sports and television event of the year, taking place this Sunday, February 7th.

Carolina Panthers all-pro linebacker Thomas Davis practices for Super Bowl 50 in his 3D printed brace

Since late January, when the Carolina Panthers decisively won against the Arizona Cardinals, clinching their spot in the 2016 Super Bowl, Davis has been forced to wear a metal plate with 12 screws holding his arm together, the result of a broken right forearm suffered during the game. Normally, an injury like that would be sure to keep Davis on the bench, yet for what is without a doubt the most important game of life, Davis is determined to get back into shape and onto the field, no matter what it takes.

Luckily, 3D printing company Whiteclouds has his back. Within just eight hours of receiving a 3D scan of Davis’ arm, the copmany was able to design and engineer a unique, custom-made, 3D printed arm brace to protect his injury during a game.

Renderings of the 3D printed brace provided by WhiteClouds

Of course, we’re not just talking about any sport here. This is American football—a game where bone-crushing, body-slamming maneuvers are not only expected, they are celebrated. A simple plastic case wouldn’t be nearly enough to protect Davis against his charging, 300+ lb opponents. To ensure his safety, the 3D printed arm brace is made from a composite blend of rigid plastic and rubber-like materials that keeps it firm yet flexible, while providing significant shock impact. The 3D printed brace is also lined with Poron XRD, a soft and lightweight, sponge-like material that is flexible to the touch, yet extremely tough on impact. Finally, the brace’s engineers included holes to increase breathability and keep the weight as low as possible.

On game day, the final 3D printed brace will be encased in foam for extra padding and then taped to the player using the signature blue, black, silver and white colors of the Panthers’ uniforms.

Thomas Davis in action

In addition to designing the 3D printed brace in an impressively quick timeframe, Whiteclouds also took care of the 3D printing and delivery processes. The actual 3D print took roughly 30 hours of a Stratasys Connex 3D printer, and was shipped out overnight on Friday, giving Davis the extra practice hours he’ll need this week to test it out and prove that he’s ready for the big day.

As if to prove his utter determination, Davis was seen as early as Monday, February 1st, taking “every opportunity to hit on something” during ‘light’ day of practice. He personally selected the 3D printed brace over three other traditional arm braces specifically because of this one’s toughness. “Thomas Davis is already the ‘bionic man’ in our book,” said Scott Perone of 3D Elite, who collaborated with Whiteclouds on the design of the 3D printed brace. “This personalized 3D printed brace makes him a bit more indestructible.”

Though Carolina Panthers coach Ron River has emphasized that he’ll only send Davis into the game if his doctors agree that he is “100%,” that doesn’t seem to be deterring Davis at all. “If there's any way, any chance, any opportunity to play in the Super Bowl," said Davis, "I'm going to do it."

Previously, we’ve seen 3D printed football helmets, 3D printed football cleats and 3D printed footballs themselves, though none of made it as far as the Super Bowl—yet. Current estimates predict that 117 million Americans will be tuning in this Sunday to watch the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos. If Davis makes it to the field, and we truly hope he does, this could be 3D printing technology’s biggest break to date.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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