Team USA received assistance from unexpected quarters, namely a Twin Cities entity, in its quest for a gold luge medal at the Olympic Games. Although Germany swept the entire tally, picking up gold medals in almost all the categories, the USA’s performance was also commendable.
A 3D printing company Stratasys, based at Eden Prairie, crafted the USA team’s sled molds. The partnership started before the 2018 Olympic Games and enables the team to swiftly test and make adjustments without any hassles. In a sport where a fraction of one second can make a difference, minor sled design tweaks may well impact overall winning or losing. Director or programming at USA Luge, Mark Grimmette, has previously stated that with athletes and coaches continually thinking about means to enhance speed on the track, 3D printing has enabled quicker manifestation of newer concepts.
Designs are dispatched to Stratasys by Team USA and it prints almost all the molds at the Twin Cities with thermoplastic, a material that is otherwise pliable. For some components, carbon fiber wrapping is used for the mold, with 3D-printed material washed away subsequently. The team initially tries using its sleds which are in sync with the bodies of athletes and adjusts designs thereafter. The procedure is repeated until they get it right. Stratasys senior vice president for strategic growth, Pat Carey, stated that the procedure is iterative since they always aim for a competitive advantage. The 3D printing technology here is also used for printing components used in car racing and boat racing along with Formula One.