Nov 22, 2016 | By Benedict

Krone Golf and CRP Group have joined forces to develop a partially 3D printed golf driver. The club is made using both additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques, and features optimized surface thicknesses, a controlled head weight, and a tuned center of gravity.

3D printing is being used more and more in the world of sport, with high-tech equipment like 3D printed running shoes, 3D printed lacrosse sticks, and 3D printed footballs changing the way the sporting arena thinks about producing its gear. Golf, unique both in its gameplay and its culture, could become the latest sport to adopt 3D printing technologies in the name of improved player performance, as golfing goods supplier Krone Golf has teamed up with CRP Group, an Italian industrial group and racing specialist, to develop a set of high-performance 3D printed golf clubs. The KD-1 drivers, made from Windform SP carbon composite, utilize both additive and subtractive manufacturing.

For goods manufacturers in the golf industry, designing the perfect golf club is a difficult task—not just because of the scientific calculations required to produce the perfect swing, impact, and follow-through, but because of the enforced restrictions imposed upon golf equipment. As in most sports, the development of high-performance equipment is encouraged, though not to the extent that some athletes are provided with an unfair advantage over others. To this end, golf clubs must meet certain weight and size criteria—exceed those criteria, and the clubs will be deemed unusable for competitive play.

Given these restrictions on the physical properties of golf clubs, manufacturers must take advantage of extremely subtle factors. Think precisely adjusting the center of gravity, optimizing surface textures, and finding the perfect balance between materials. Excelling in these areas requires more than just a feel for the sport, however; it requires use of advanced technologies such as intelligent design, innovative materials, and futuristic manufacturing methods like 3D printing.

Traditionally, drivers—those large-headed clubs used to hit the ball as far as possible when teeing off—were made from wood. In the late 1970s, companies started using steel, and now some of the most advanced clubs are made from titanium or carbon, materials that offer big advantages to golfers in terms of strength and lightness. Both materials, however, have their disadvantages too. Titanium parts, for example, can only be made so thin, since they must be eventually welded. Carbon fiber parts, on the other hand, have a limited stiffness unless manufacturers opt for extremely expensive, high-modulus fibers.

In developing the new KD-1 drivers, CRP and Krone realized that additive manufacturing and CNC machining could be employed to reduce the obstacles typically associated with titanium and carbon heads. Additive manufacturing enables the manufacturer to create stiff, lightweight structures using 3D lattice patterns, while CNC machining enables the precise control over thickness in critical areas. “In our working experience with CRP so far, we have not had any of mentioned issues,” commented Marc Kronenberg, Krone Golf CEO. “The part quality, consistency, and accuracy from both their CNC Machining and 3D Printing Departments has been outstanding.”

The 3D printed KD-1 driver has been designed to produce perfect performance, with a laser sintering 3D printer used to fabricate a body structure made from Windform SP, a highly ductile carbon composite that is resistant to shock and vibration. Four Helicoil M4 inserts at the ends of the head serve to fasten the weight, while the face—the part of the head that strikes the ball—is made from Ti 6AI-4V, a widely used titanium alloy, that has been CNC machined and sand-blasted to smoothness. The hosel—the socket of the head which the shaft fits into—is also titanium-made, with the weight of the head CNC machined from solid brass.

Krone Golf has been so impressed with the KD-1 that it plans to continue working with CRP to bring the club to market. “We plan to continue to work closely with CRP to refine the design so that it can take full advantage of their CNC and Additive Manufacturing processes and bring the concept of ‘mass customization’ for individually made golf components to market by the end of this year,” Kronenberg said. “The fit between the CNC machined parts and the Windform is exactly as designed. I can say from the design point of view that the use of Windform SP and titanium has allowed me to really push the limits for the ‘performance’ of the golf club: its performance level, as predicted in computer simulations, is unlike any other golf club available today.”

After carrying out performance-related tests on the KD-1, Krone is confident that the club can best any other driver on the market. “Most golfers are using equipment that achieve 80-85% of the limit,” Kronenberg stated. “Professional players use custom-tuned equipment that can get them close to 95-100%. We are over 100% and still have more room to go higher.”

If Kronenberg’s words are to be believed, it shouldn’t be long before 3D printing techniques are adopted by golf equipment manufacturers worldwide. Look out for a KD-1 on the fairway in the near future.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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