Sports equipment has always had a pretty close relationship with advanced technology, and not only because their marketing companies practically salivate at the prospect of a new angle for their advertising campaigns. The various industries that have grown up around sports, both professional and recreational, are under quite a bit of scrutiny when it comes to making sports safer for players. That means that a culture has developed within the sportswear and sporting equipment industries that actively look for new, innovative ways to improve their products. And these sporting goods companies are often only the first to use many of these products, with many of them finding their way into things that we wear and use every day.
High-tech fabrics that wick water away from the body are commonplace throughout all types of clothing these days, but it was sportswear that got there first. Footwear of all kinds are now regularly made with cushiony soft insoles that used to be reserved for only the most expensive running shoes. And many of the high-tech, lightweight plastics and polycarbonate materials used in just about every consumer product on the market started out as a material used heavily in sporting equipment and safety gear. So it isn’t especially surprising that sportswear companies like New Balance, Adidas, Under Armour and Nike are lining up to use 3D printing in their newest, most advanced products. And now a whole new generation of startups are getting into the game and releasing their own 3D printed products.
Austrian sports equipment manufacturer Zweikampf is releasing their first 3D printed product on Kickstarter this week, and it has already generated quite a bit of buzz. The Zweikampf Shin Guard is a high-tech marvel that puts the standard equipment to shame in both quality and design. Not only is it thinner, lighter and stronger than just about everything else on the market, but it has a sleek, modern design that can be customized for just about any player and their individual requirements. The secret is Zweikampf’s XRD Technology, which combines new, advanced materials and 3D printed components to make any soccer or football players perfect pair of shin guards.
Zweikampf Shin Guards are available in three different sizes, and each pair is made from three individual layers of materials. They are far more advanced than standard, injection-molded equipment, and were created for players who are serious about finding the perfect combination of protection and comfort. The inner layer is a soft, pliable material that conforms to wearers’ legs snugly, so players will hardly notice that they are wearing anything. The center layer is available in three different configurations that can be selected by the wearer depending on the type of protection they are looking for. They can select an insert with higher levels of comfort and flexibility, one with more durability and strength, or something somewhere in between.
But it is the outer 3D printed shell of the Zweikampf Shin Guards where the real innovations are. The unique Y honeycomb structure of the surface was designed to absorb and diffuse shocks and hits by distributing the force throughout the entire structure. The shell has a high-friction coating that will keep it in place and never let the player’s socks drop or slip down. And at 75 grams and only 7 mm thick, the complex geometry is only possible using 3D printing, in this case a selective laser sintering process. The three different size options were created by 3D scanning and comparing the shins of more than 250 players in order to develop the most optimal sizes for the most amount of players. While it is currently not an available option, in the future the company plans to offer shin guards made from an individual player’s 3D scanned leg.
Take a look at the Zweikampf Shin Guards Kickstarter video:
Zweikampf is hoping to raise €50,000 (a little over $56,000USD), and their campaign will be running until May 17th. The retail cost of the shin guards will be €139 (or €149 for personalized), but the early bird price will set you back €125 (about $141) and will include your name and player number printed on the inside. If they meet their estimated delivery date then backing this project could put a new pair of 3D printed shin guard in your hands by the end of May or June 2016. You can check out the Zweikampf Shin Guards Kickstarter campaign here, or head on over to the Zweikampf website for more information. Are you thinking about backing this campaign? Discuss in the 3D Printed Shin Guards forum over at 3DPB.com.