Apr 9, 2018 | By David

An Australian para-triathlete is due to get a helping hand from 3D printing technology soon, as he competes in the Gold Coast Commonwealth games with the help of some 3D printed gloves. Wheelchair-bound athlete Scott Crowley needs special gloves to help him race, and had previously relied on homemade efforts. This time around, however, he will be making use of some custom-made gloves 3D printed at the University of Adelaide’s ThincLab 3D Studio.

(source: theleadsouthaustralia.com)

The action of Crowley’s hands when he pushes the wheels of his chair is necessarily very powerful and intense for racing, and so he requires gloves that will protect his hands from damage. His old, rather rudimentary method, was to melt plastic on the kitchen stove and lay this over his hands to mold it. This hasn’t always led to the best results in terms of consistency or fit, and on one hot day the hand coverings melted back to blobs of plastic when they were left in a car for too long.

This all changed when Crowley and his wife gained access to ThincLab’s co-working studio, after winning a place there as a result of an innovative business idea. They wanted to create an accessible travel directory to help out other people who, like Crowley, had limited mobility. This led to their The Good Scout business, and access to lots of advice and business mentors.

While working at the studio, Crowley met Morgan Hunter, who was the TechLab manager and an engineer in charge of the lab’s 3D printers. In a casual conversation, his difficulties with hand protection in racing came up, and Hunter realized that he could make use of the lab’s 3D printing technology to provide a better solution for Crowley.

Morgan Hunter set to work with Crowley on the project, initially modelling the shape in clay. The process involved a 3D scan of Mr Crowley's original gloves and the clay models. There were several iterations and fittings along the way to the final product, making use of CAD design software in order to personalize the glove design for his specific hand size and shape.

''This is the first 3D printed glove I’ve ever had. It’s custom to my hand – it’s very light but still very strong, and it’s consistent. It’s good to have that consistency of shape'', Scott told South Australia's The Lead.''So far the new gloves have performed excellently, much better than my normal gloves. Because they’re light, they also help with recovery time. I’m definitely happy with the outcome''.

(source: adelaide.edu)

Total development time was around two months, and the final glove design was printed with Onyx carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and covered in rubber. The new design and materials used managed to shave a total of 145 grams off each glove, adding to Crowley’s comfort as well as making him that bit more streamlined, to shave those vital seconds off his lap times when racing.

"This project is a great example of how ThincLab is able to provide the design advice and expertise, as well as the prototyping capability to solve a problem."

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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