I didn’t play any full-contact sports in school, like football or rugby, but I still came home with my fair share of minor injuries from marching band practices and competitions (playing the flute can be dangerous, too). While 3D printing technology has been used to improve sporting equipment, athletic shoes, and sports prosthetics, and even bring games from the field to the table top, perhaps most importantly it’s used often to keep players safe from injuries. Thanks to the customizable nature of 3D printing, there have been 3D printed shin guards and mouthguards, a binding system for snowboards, and helmets for sports like biking, football, and lacrosse. The last is the focus of a recent case study by LulzBot, which is owned by Aleph Objects in Colorado.
While 3D printing has been used in the past to make lacrosse sticks, now we’re seeing the technology being put to use to improve on the game’s headgear. Cascade Lacrosse is the top producer of lacrosse helmets in the world, and has been using LulzBot’s industrial-grade desktop 3D printers to improve its prototyping capabilities.
“The LulzBot 3D Printers brand name kept coming up as an industry leader in quality and customer service when doing research. The ability to print flexible material using its Flexystruder Tool Head made choosing the LulzBot TAZ 3D Printer an easy decision for us,” Cascade Lacrosse product developer Chris Laurita explained.
“Any part on our helmet that is flexed or needs some squish to it gets printed on one of our LulzBot TAZ 3D Printers with a Flexystruder Tool Head.”
There have been studies on using 3D printing to improve sports headgear before – due to the potentially life-threatening brain injuries that can be sustained on the field, it is vitally important that the helmets which players strap on before a game are able to protect them to the best of their ability. 3D printing not only allows Cascade to quickly introduce new ideas to the market, but it also helps the company ramp up its internal prototyping processes and develop quality products that will keep lacrosse players comfortable and safe.
While working on creating flexible prototype parts, Cascade uses LulzBot’s industrial TAZ 6 3D printers, Cura LulzBot Edition software, and durable, functional NinjaTek filaments, such as stretchy NinjaFlex. In addition to the high-quality prototypes that the 3D printers have produced, Cascade also lists the “readily available technical support and the longevity of the machines” as reasons for sticking with LulzBot for its helmet prototyping needs.
“The flexibility you have with the modular tool heads, the size of the build plate, and the quality of the prints you get make the LulzBot 3D Printer a great value. Once we had our first LulzBot 3D Printer in-house, it was easy to justify to our management team getting a second,” said Laurita.
“The couple times that we have had issues with our LulzBot 3D Printers it has always been easy to get customer support on the line and walk through the issues at hand. Our LulzBot 3D Printers have been running almost continuously for the last year.”
As LulzBot notes, lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the US, so helping Cascade quickly and cost-effectively improve its product development is key to the company’s continued success in offering quality lacrosse equipment. Cascade’s LX helmet “redefined the category of women’s lacrosse equipment,” and 3D printing has allowed the company to offer quick product turnaround and enhanced flexibility.
The LX helmet has an outer shell that’s tough on impact, but flexible and soft to touch; it also comes with three interchangeable cheek pad sets, air vents and slots for hairstyles, a rear adjustable strap, and plenty of room for team decals.
Laurita said, “Payback-wise, printing functional flexible parts on our LulzBot TAZ 3D Printers has given us the confidence to skip prototype tooling on multiple occasions; this saves us thousands in tooling costs and months on our timelines. Design-wise, we cannot put a price on being able to test out concepts that we would need tooling for in the past.”
To learn more about the Cascade LX women’s lacrosse helmet, check out the video below:
Discuss in the LulzBot forum at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: LulzBot]
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