Nov 12, 2015 | By Alec

Hockey is a fantastic sport to watch and play, especially due to the dangers involved. Despite all the equipment you can wear, broken bones, cuts, bruising and more are commonplace in hockey games. But is that all we should worry about, wondered student and industrial designer Ryan Fackelman while working on his graduate thesis. Knowing from own experience that sports equipment is often teeming with bacteria and fungi that can cause serious infections, he has developed an intriguing 3D printed hockey glove packed with antimicrobials that protects the wearer in more ways than one.

Ryan is, as you might expect, a typical hockey fan. The 29-year-old was born and raised in Rochester, NY, and graduated from the Rochester institute of technology earlier this year with an industrial design degree in his pocket. ‘I've played sports all my life, mostly hockey (22 years).  Knowing that hockey equipment smells and rarely gets washed, there is a higher percentage of bacteria build up with in equipment.  I wanted to find an easy way for hockey players to wash their equipment, gloves in particular,’ he tells us. ‘I wanted to design a glove that would have an inner liner that could be taken out and be washed separately, the liner would also contain antimicrobial agents to kill off bacteria.’

This is a very interesting approach to sports equipment, which is always notoriously dirty. Sure, you can wash socks and shirts, but there’s something about padding that is just traditionally dirty. Nothing quite gets you ready for a match than strapping on the equipment covered in dozens of layers of your own filth. But that is actually rather easily combated with antimicrobial agents that inhibits bacterial growth. ‘ Antimicrobial medicines can be grouped according to the microorganisms they act primarily against. For example, antibacterials are used against bacteria and anti-fungals are used against fungi. By integrating antimicrobial agents into sports equipment, lowers the chances of any health risks that bacteria can cause to a player,’ Ryan explains.

This interesting glove concept was being developed for his graduate project, that was originally supposed to be about soft goods – something not very suitable for hockey equipment. Being a SolidWorks specialist, 3D printing quickly came to mind. ‘I've 3D printed a few things in ABS and PLA, but I wanted this glove to be durable and flexible. I searched the web and talked to a few sources, and came across NinjaFlex,’ he explains. ‘While being at the Rochester Institute of Technology I wanted to take advantage of the 3D lab and resources I had at my disposal, but the printers that we hand were unable to print NinjaFlex.  We could not get the setting to work properly with the material. My professor at the time knew someone that had their own 3D printer and had great success with printing NinjaFlex.’

That contact eventually 3D printed the glove for Ryan, which was separated into a number of sections: a main glove body, the wrist cuff, and separate pads. Eventually gluing the hands together with epoxy, Ryan first encountered the disasters that some adhesives bring to 3D printing projects. Unfortunately, outsourcing the 3D print job means he cannot tell us what settings were used. He is, however, very pleased with the results.

Indeed, Ryan believes –as some other initiatives have also argued – that 3D printing could be used to revolutionize sports equipment and make it more suitable for personal use. ‘The ability to 3D scan your hands and get custom fitted gloves that are 3D printed, being able to reprint individual pads on your glove instead of buying a whole new pair, and lowering the manufacturing costs,’ Ryan says as examples. ‘3D printing would make a great impact in the sporting world!’ We have to say we completely agree.

Ryan, meanwhile, could very well be working on those kinds of goods in the near future. Currently working on industrial design projects on contract basis, he tells us he is currently again working on a 3D printed ninjaflex prototype. ‘I can't disclose to much information, but it's a device that will help users that are visually impaired in one eye that play sports,’ he concludes. In short, we will doubtlessly hear more about his work in the near future.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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