Motion Capture and 3D Printing Preserve the Movements of Skateboards in Action

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Some of athletes’ best memories come from a record-setting run or bike ride, or, for skateboarders, a difficult-to-master trick. Those moments are ephemeral, as memories tend to be, but 3D printing can help to capture them in more tangible forms. We just took a look at a startup that provides 3D printed representations of running and cycling routes, and a design studio has now come up with a way to map the trajectory of a skateboard in motion, and to 3D print those trajectories.

Convivial Studio is a London-based design studio that creates installations and other works of art using advanced technology, founded by Paul Ferragut and Ann-Kristin Abel. The project Skateboarding Visualizations was a recent endeavor by Ferragut to capture the unique movement of individual skateboarders as they performed different tricks, and to preserve that movement in concrete form.

“The hidden science and art underlying skateboard tricks is a source of fascination. We created motion tracking device to get data about the skateboard position during the execution of tricks,” explains Convivial Studio. “The data and trails of the tricks are then used to create sculptures and immortalize the motion of the skateboard and the style of the individual skateboarder. Amongst the possible applications for this project, this work focused on creating artistic visualizations and physical sculptures from skateboard tricks.”

To capture motion data, the studio embedded sensitive electronics inside a truck case, for which a prototype was 3D printed before the final version was milled from aluminum. 3D printing was also used to create a case in which a hall sensor was placed, then attached to the wheel of the skateboard to calculate its speed. Specialized software was then used to translate the data picked up by the electronics and sensors during the skateboard’s movement into digital representations that look like streaks and spirals of light. Ferragut used a customized openFrameworks application to interpret the data.

“In this software, I manually define the beginning and the end of the trick in the air. I believe someone more advanced in mathematics might have suggestions to improve the software, I am keen to hear suggestions,” he says. “The trails are smoothed and I added features to create particle effects around the trail.”

He then converted the digital trails into meshes to be exported into 3D models, which he 3D printed using a Stratasys Fortus 450mc. He also tested a 3D Systems ZPrinter in order to create more detailed color prints. The result is a series of curving, tangling sculptures whose lines trace the paths of skateboards as they leap, spin and flip.

“This project was great fun, especially working at Pier 9 in San Francisco which is next to many famous skate spots,” says Farragut. “In the future, I would like to improve the software and test other electronics as well 3D print larger tricks sculptures.”

If you’re a skateboarding enthusiast, you can try the project out for yourself  – it’s all documented on Instructables. You can gather data and sift through it to find the coolest patterns to 3D print, or wait until you’ve mastered the difficult trick you’ve been trying to complete, and 3D print yourself a trophy that immortalizes your board’s every movement during your historic feat. Discuss in the Convivial Studio forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images: Convivial Studio]

 

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