Aug 4, 2016 | By Andre

The Olympics are a spectacle of human achievement loaded full with intense competition and suspense. So it’s no surprise that a seemingly endless supply of sponsors, from Nike and Under Armour with their sportswear to drink brands to just about any marketable product you can think of really latches onto the event.

But while you might expect sports equipment companies to lend their expertise to the training of olympic bound athletes, it may come as a surprise that BMW is temporarily stepping away from the roads and into the sports conditioning arena thanks in part by their 3D print assisted LED driven motion tracking system.

For world class swimmers, the ability to accurately study participants stroke and kick motions give the coaching staff very valuable performance information. BMW’s answer is to attach LED trackers on the swimmers wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes via a 3D printed mounting system. Once in the water, the swimmer needs to train as she would in a typical environment but now an underwater camera is focused onto the sensor equipped athlete. The data collected allows for a very specific breakdown of limb and joint angles with critical performance information included in the mix.

Luckily for the swimmers, the attached sensor technology is meant to go unnoticed. Peter Falt, Director of BMW Group Designworks notes that the system is designed to “hold up to the intense forces of Olympic swimmers,” but ultimately “disappear, meaning that they are not noticeable by the swimmer or impede their motion in any way.” He further stressed that it was of utmost importance that the training didn’t feel different than the competition based experience would.

While it’s not certain what 3D printing technology was used for the mounting system, what is known is that its based on two algorithms designed to detect and adaptively monitor a swimmer’s every move. This includes a computer vision that is used in the company’s cars to identify humans, park distance and active cruise control.

It’s worth noting that BMW isn’t brand new to advancing sports technology on a Olympics level. In 2012 the motion tracking system helped USA Swimming secure 16 medals for their country. Russell Mark, USA Swimming’s National Team performance consultant adds that, “the goal is that by comparing measurements to performance over time, we can use BMW’s motion tracking tool to hone in on technique adjustments that work best for each individual swimmer.”

The car company is also putting its expertise into the sport of long jump, bobsledding and wheelchair racing. It’s also not the first foray into 3D printing for the company. As one might expect, they have been using the technology for prototyping for quite some time, and have even recently announced a partnership with HP for ‘serial part production & personal customization’ in their automotive line. While it might seem as though the company is spreading itself thin with what it is helping out with, but when you have over €80 billion in yearly revenue, dabbling into different realms is not a big deal.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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