3D Scanning to Gain an Edge on the Competition

By Ralph Gillis on

In the world of competitive sports, winning is often measured in milliseconds. Athletes and sports equipment manufacturers are constantly looking for that competitive edge that will put them in the winner’s circle. Because of this, products are constantly being designed and redesigned to find ways to make them lighter, more form-fitting and ergonomic.

Companies have long been using CAD software to create such designs and utilizing additive manufacturing tools to enhance product development. But one tool, in particular, is fast becoming a go-to instrument for companies looking to cut the product development cycle and to give athletes the edge they are looking for…3D scanning.

3D Scanning for Athletics

3D Scanning for shoes3D scanning is used in a myriad of ways, not only to scan different products, but also the human body in order to design sportswear and many sports-specific products. From custom-made shoes, to helmets, mouth guards and prosthetics, my guess is that you probably own one of these products! (Pictured Right: Artec Space Spider created custom sneakers.)

Artec 3D Scanning Childrens HelmetsPictured above: Artec Eva scanned & 3D printed children’s equestrian helmet.

>> Case Study: Creating custom 3D-printed children’s helmets at Cerebra with Artec Eva

3D Scanning for Competition

Artec Leo Scanned ImageThink of a sport you participate in or enjoy watching and chances are, 3D scanning technology was (or could be) used to enhance an athlete’s ability to perform. Did you happen to watch the Summer Olympics/Paralympics? These events give us the opportunity, not only to cheer on our countries athletes, but to be able to watch a host of sports competitions that we normally don’t get to see. 

Archery, diving, volleyball, table tennis and rowing were some of my favorites. Having played recreational sports growing up, I can appreciate the hard work and commitment that it takes for these athletes to be able to compete at such a high level.

As you might imagine, 3D scanning could be used to help many Olympic athletes and pro sports teams gain a competitive edge. 3D scanning could be used to determine the best aerodynamics to help gain more speed and cut precious time in sports such as cycling, luge, bobsled or rowing.

Artec Leo 3D Scanning for Faster Skin SuitsPictured above: Artec Leo scanning to create faster skin suits.

>> Case Study: Artec Leo helps Vorteq create the world’s fastest cycling skinsuits

Rowing for Gold

3D scanning could also be used to enhance a rider’s comfort or to optimize a design to reduce weight, such as in a custom-fit rowing seat or oar handles. The applications for 3D scanning are truly endless!

Concept 2 OarsSince I mentioned the subject of rowing, as I was watching the Olympic rowing competition, the TV coverage zoomed in on the rowers as they kept cadence with each other. There, on the screen, was the logo of one of TriMech’s customers, Concept 2! I was so excited for them!

Turns out that one of the founders, Dick Dreissigacker, is a former Olympic rower who competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics and started Concept 2 with his brother, Pete, manufacturing rowing equipment (a.k.a ergometer or “erg”). Today, they also manufacture a line of stationary bikes and ski machines, however, their core business centers around custom rowing oars that are used by top rowers from around the globe. 

These oars are a perfect example of a product that can make or break an event. Angles and sizes off by a fraction of an inch can create drag or wind resistance that could be detrimental to the outcome. This gives me an idea, since I have 3D scanners at my disposal, perhaps I could use the scans to redesign my kayak paddles for my next Olympic run in 2024! (Wink! Wink!)

 Paddle Scan 1      Paddle Scan 2     Paddle Scan 3

Pictured above: Paddle scan that can be later used in simulation testing for improved design.

3D Scanning is evolving at a rapid pace, and as you can see, there are many possibilities for improving the athletic products we use so that we can let athleticism, skill and endurance shine in these competitive sports.

Looking to expand your capabilities with 3D scanning or need a little help capturing the full value of your scanned data? Check out our webinar, “3D Scan to CAD Model: The Full Process of Reverse Engineering.”