Jan 3, 2018 | By Benedict

ARIA Ultimate, a company specializing in the production of discs for the sport of ultimate frisbee, has used 3D printing to create its flagship disc. After two years and 67 prototypes, the disc is now available for $12.

Ultimate frisbee, now known simply as “ultimate” amongst its huge community of players, is a strange sport. Despite having more than five million players in the U.S. alone, many casual observers remain skeptical about the game because of its relative newness and perceived lack of seriousness.

It surely won’t be long before that all changes. New innovations in the sport are making ultimate a much more serious enterprise, and North America’s semi-professional American Ultimate Disc League enjoyed its inaugural season back in 2012.

But progress isn’t just about establishing leagues and forging a good reputation. One of the most important aspects of ultimate is, unsurprisingly, the disc itself, and changes in disc production reflect the growing importance of ultimate. (The layman might call the disc a “frisbee,” but this is actually a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company, so the term is generally avoided.)

A handful of new companies are now trying to create new and improved discs, ones that will fly true even in adverse weather conditions, in an attempt to compete with the single biggest producers of ultimate discs: Discraft.

One of those companies is ARIA Ultimate, formed by the co-creators of ultimate clothing brand Five Ultimate. Behind both companies are the five siblings of the Titcomb family, who wanted to create their own disc to compete with Discraft's.

Only they had no idea how. Having no experience with disc production, the Titcomb siblings had to start their venture from scratch, starting with the most basic part of the process: the shape of the disc.

It was in this early stage of disc design that ARIA Ultimate started using 3D printing. By using CAD software to come up with 3D models for their discs, ARIA was able to quickly 3D print prototypes, putting each through various physical tests (including throwing!) before returning to the computer to refine the design.

One important aspect of the 3D design was the disc’s “rim feel,” the angle and contour at the edge of the disc that the ultimate player needs to grip in order to throw the flying object.

It wasn’t just about the shape of the disc, though. ARIA also had to find the best material for the job—something that was no easy task, since established disc manufacturers don’t make public their own plastic recipes.

During the materials testing phase, ARIA used existing discs—both serious ones and things like dog toys—and tried to see how they performed in certain conditions, including after being put in a freezer.

To find out exactly what materials were in these existing products, the ARIA team used Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy, a kind of infrared radiation technique, to analyze material samples. Then, with their scientific results to hand, they chose their preferred material blend for their own disc.

Minute alterations were made on each disc iteration, and over the course of two years, ARIA went through 67 prototypes. That’s a lot of 3D printing, but the family company thinks it was all worthwhile, since its final disc—also called the ARIA Ultimate—performs exactly how the Titcombs want it to, even in extreme temperatures.

In 2017, ARIA raised almost $25,000 in a Kickstarter campaign in order to kickstart production of the discs, marking a huge step for the company. Then in August, the ARIA Ultimate disc was approved by USA Ultimate, the governing body of ultimate in the U.S., after meeting size and weight requirements and passing a play test.

The disc can be bought for $12, and can even be customized to include a team logo or other design.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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