Aug 10, 2016 | By Tess

With the Rio Olympic summer games in full swing, a number of really cool 3D printing projects geared towards athletics have been coming out of the woodwork. Yesterday, for instance, we wrote about Viget’s truly innovative 3D printed TrackRacer product, which helps runners visualize their progress on the track, and now a family from Kentucky is making headlines for their custom 3D printed wheelchair racing gloves.

We first heard about a 3D printed wheelchair racing glove project last year, as University of Illinois student and wheelchair racer, Arielle Rausin created a pair for herself using 3D scanning and printing technologies. The project, which gained attention and proved to be a success for the racer, has now expanded and has even inspired others to develop their own 3D printed gloves. Raymond Jones, of Nicholasville, Kentucky was one such person as he has been developing custom 3D printed racing gloves for his 17-year-old daughter Aerelle with the help of his 15-year-old son Garrett.

If you’re wondering about the efficacy of 3D printing gloves, let me just explain what wheelchair racing actually consists of. The gloves in wheelchair racing are exceptionally important as they work to both protect the hands of the racer, and to grip and propel the chair forwards by pushing back on the wheels. For the best racing results then, racers could benefit from a custom fitted, strong, and lightweight set of gloves, which as the Jones family have demonstrated, can be achieved with 3D scanning and printing.

The project is still quite grassroots, as the Jones family is currently operating their manufacturing at their local library in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The Jessamine County Public Library, which has its own 3D printing lab equipped with scanners and a few 3D printers, has allowed them to design and develop state-of-the-art wheelchair racing gloves. On a larger scale, the benefits of 3D printed racing gloves have even been recognized by the U.S. Paralympic team, whose athletes will be wearing them to the Rio Olympic games this year.

As Raymond Jones said in an interview, “There are actual 3D-printed gloves that are being used right now in training by the team that is going to Rio for the United States. It’s kind of fun to think that here we are in little Jessamine County in a public library and we are working on a project that is being used by the U.S. team that’s going to the Paralympics this year.”

To make the custom fitted gloves, the racer’s hands first have to be 3D scanned and turned into a digital model. Traditionally, wheelchair racing gloves are determined by different size numbers, which often do not fit perfectly—resulting in blisters and cuts—and do not account for any hand irregularities, which is something that has to be taken into account especially for the Paralympics. By 3D scanning the racer’s hands, a custom, and perfectly fitted model for the gloves can be made.

To make the gloves strong and lightweight, the Joneses have been 3D printing their gloves out of PLA filament, which reportedly results in gloves that are one-third of the weight of regular store-bought racing gloves. “When you consider that you’re taking your hand and you are stretching it way behind your back and then bringing it all the way to the rim thousands of times per race,” explained Raymond Jones. “That lighter glove makes it easier. The second is that there’s not give in (a custom-designed) glove, so you are applying more force to the rim.”

As mentioned, another effort to make 3D printed wheelchair racing gloves is being undertaken at the University of Illinois, which is known for its wheelchair athletics. The Jones family is hoping to ultimately partner with the University, share their resources and processes and make the 3D printed gloves more accessible to athletes everywhere.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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