Nov 17, 2016 | By Tess

The sport of lacrosse, which has existed in various forms since the 12th century, has evidently passed the test of time, as it is still widely played today—it even remains the national sport of Canada, despite what some hockey fans might think. For such an established sport, one might think that there is not much innovation remaining in terms of rules, play, and especially equipment. But one company, L.A.-based StringKing, is hoping to prove that idea wrong with its new lacrosse sticks and heads made with the help of 3D printing.

Founded in 2011, lacrosse equipment manufacturer StringKing set out to design new and improved lacrosse sticks and heads. Its first successful product, called Performance Mesh, was a new kind of mesh netting that makes up the lacrosse stick’s pocket. Naturally, the company's next step was to design an optimized head for its mesh, a project that was realized in 2015 with the innovative Mark 1 lacrosse head.

Mark 1 Head

The Mark 1 Head was developed with the help of 3D printing, as StringKing first reached out to an external 3D printing service to help it prototype its various designs. According to the company, while this did improve workflow, each 3D printed prototype took roughly a week to get back, and each cost a whopping $450. As Mark Flibotte, StringKing’s marketing director, explained: “It really limited the amount of fine tuning we could do on the head.”

With the Mark 1 eventually capturing three to four percent of the market share for lacrosse heads, StringKing realized it was time to scale up its work, though to do this it would have to abandon its third-party 3D printing service and seek an alternative option. After much research and consideration, StringKing’s product development team decided to invest in a 3D printer, eventually settling on MakerBot’s Replicator Z18 3D printer, known for its large build volume (30.5 x 30.5 x 45.7 cm).

Replicator Z18 3D printer

Having the 3D printer in house not only sped up turnaround times for new prototypes but also cut down on costs significantly. “We were amazed at how much faster and how much more fine-tuning we could do on our design,” explained Flibotte. After seeing good results with the Z18 3D printer, StringKing even opted to buy two more. The product development team also upgraded each of the 3D printers with MakerBot’s Smart Extruder+.

Now, with the capability to quickly design, 3D print, test, and tweak its prototypes, StringKing is more prepared to scale up its work and products. In fact, the company is set to release a set of six new lacrosse heads starting at the end of 2016 and into 2017. The set, which consists of the Mark 2V, Mark 2A, Mark 2T, Mark 2F, Mark 2D, and Mark Jr., were realized quickly thanks to the flexibility and manufacturing capabilities of 3D printing.

Soon-to-be-released Mark 2 Head

In designing the six lacrosse heads, the product development team was able to explore and test a number of different design possibilities, even making up to 30 prototypes per lacrosse head. This means that the company was able to thoroughly test different features for each print, making the sports equipment as effective as possible.

As Jake McCampbell, CEO and Co-founder of StringKing, commented: “After we got the three MakerBots we were able to do three prints per twenty-four hours. With the MakerBots we are now going to launch six awesome heads in a 1-year span. In order to do this we will have to print about 200 heads. This would have cost about $90,000 if we outsourced our printing and would have been so slow that I don’t think we would be able to launch six heads in one year.”

Each of the six heads being released by StringKing is specially optimized for a different playing position. For instance, the Mark 2V is designed for midfield play, the Mark 2A for attacking, the Mark 2F for faceoffs, the Mark 2T for transitional play, and the Mark 2D for defense. If you hadn’t guessed, the Mark Jr. is geared towards younger players.

If you are into lacrosse, you might want to check out StringKing’s upcoming products and test them for yourself. If not, the company’s rise to success—pushed on with the help of 3D printing—just goes to show how even a sport as established as lacrosse can receive a boost through additive manufacturing.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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