Being a Paralympian often means that people focus more on your stunning athleticism rather than any disability you possess. Unfortunately, sometimes the equipment available to help these athletes also acts as a hindrance rather than a support. Such was the case with Latvian wheelchair fencer Polina Rožkova, whose back brace was bulky and uncomfortable—not an acceptable situation when she was competing for the gold at the 2016 Paralympics.
Rožkova spent a significant amount of time trying out different braces in an effort to find one that wouldn’t make its presence something to overcome. Having heard about the impacts that 3D printing has made on the world of sports, she decided to investigate and find out if a 3D printed brace might be the solution she was looking for. She reached out to Baltic3D, the Latvian reseller of Stratasys, and together they began to develop an innovative new brace.
The first step in the brace’s development was to gather the data about Rožkova’s body that would allow it to be completely personalized. That data was worked in a new specialist WiDE software to create a design that could fit the exact form of the area of her middle spine, an area subject to intense stressors during the movements required by fencing. It was determined that Nylon 12 3D printing material would be the most suitable for fabrication because of the type of movements the brace would be subject to, as well as sweating that occurs during exertion. The final product was produced on a Stratasys Fortus 450mc Production 3D printer and Andy Middleton, the President of Stratasys EMEA, was very enthusiastic about the project:
“Polina’s story is one that embodies all the great things about 3D printing and its ability to truly shape lives. Being able to quickly 3D print low-cost solutions customized specifically to the person takes us away from a world where we settle for small, medium or large, giving consumers more options than ever before. We are extremely proud to be a part of this project and help Polina overcome a design challenge, allowing her to compete at the top. We wish her all the success in Rio this week.”
That’s right…the 2016 Paralympics are going on right now. Unfortunately, they often don’t get the press that they should, and we’re the ones missing out because some truly amazing feats of athleticism are occurring—such as the four visually impaired runners in the 1500 meter whose time beat every single runner of the event in this year’s Olympics. Not only are world records being broken but, as noted in this video, the opening ceremony featured a man rolling down a fiery mega ramp and then landing a flip in a wheelchair. Also at the opening ceremony was an incredible dance between a double-amputee snowboarder dancing in a 3D printed dress—with a robot.
In order to participate in these games and perform up to her abilities, this custom back brace for Rožkova was vital. She expressed her delight with the product:
“Throughout my years as a professional wheelchair fencer, I have been looking for an alternative, and most importantly, sports-appropriate lower back brace to allow me to fence and move freely without any restraints or pain. As the sport puts a lot of strain on the lower back, I also needed a support that could be replaced easily if it broke during training or competition. I’m ecstatic with the result – not only is the 3D printed back brace visually appealing, but it gives me a level of freedom unparalleled to anything I have ever used before. I feel better equipped than ever to achieve my goals.”
Discuss further in the 3D Printed Brace for Paralympian Fencer forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Business Wire]