Aug 9, 2016 | By Tess

Viget, the digital agency that brought us the delightful 3D printed Twitter powered horse brooch for the Kentucky Derby, has once again combined 3D printing technologies with LED lighting, this time for a more sporting purpose. In the spirit of the Rio Summer Olympics, Viget has unveiled the TrackPacer, a visual marker made with the help of 3D printing technologies that allows runners to pace themselves and keep track of their speed.

In the sport of racing, runners are constantly racing against the clock, and oftentimes their own best records. Realizing this, Cal Poly engineering student Alexandra Kline thought what better way to help runners train than by installing a visual marker on the race track for them to see how they are performing in real time. While racing against people is more common, racing against a more consistent visual marker could help the racers to better understand their progress through accurate performance feedback.

To bring her novel idea to fruition, Kline presented it to Viget, who were immediately on board. After working together on significant research and development, the digital agency was able to successfully create an iOS-controlled LED pacesetting system, which is currently being tested by a number of university running teams, as well as professional running teams. The system, called Trackpacer, was largely realized thanks to rapid prototyping technologies.

Justin Sinichko, a hardware developer at Viget’s Boulder, Colorado office, said: “We wanted a way to quickly get this thing on the track without going down the injection molding route. It would’ve been impossible without 3D printing.”

Essentially, Viget used 3D printing technologies to manufacture the adjustable ratchet connectors that attach the LED light strips to the track. To print the connectors, the digital agency used their in-house LulzBot Mini 3D printer, which was able to print all the necessary parts in under a week’s time. Sinichko explained the importance of the 3D printed connectors saying, “That connector empowers you to do two things: One, get that thing on the track, but two, also make sure that they’re exactly where we need them to be and made slight adjustments over the course of 400 meters.”

Here’s how the innovative product actually works: first, a coach or runner can set the visual marker’s pace, distance, and intervals through an easy to use iOS application. Once that is done, the information is sent to the track through Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which creates a pulse of light that moves around the track in accordance with the specified parameters. The 400m track itself contains 12,000 LEDs (aka Neopixels), which are all controlled by an array of slave micro-controllers, which are in turn connected to a master controller.

The first track that the TrackPacer was tested was at Potts Field at the University of Colorado Boulder. After positive feedback from both runners and coaches, Viget has decided to pursue the product further. Whether or not 3D printing will be used for the final commercialized product is not clear, but there is no question that the technologies played a key role in the prototyping process.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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