3D Printing of Fitness Gear, Apparel and R&D Tax Credits


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According to the Financial Times, Americans spent $19 billion on gym memberships and $33 bilion on sports equipment in 2016. Regular exercise reduces stress, decreases the risk for cardiovascular disease and improves overall health. Gyms are a convenient way to stay fit and provide long-term health benefits. The advent of new technologies is changing the fitness industry. Various research has been conducted to find new ways to manufacture their sports products. Additive manufacturing has provided another opportunity for gym equipment. Fitness gear and apparel are fast growing printer enterprises. Businesses with designers, engineers and technicians who are involved with 3D printing fitness gear may be eligible for an R&D Tax Credit.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the now permanent Federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit that typically ranges from 4%-7% of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • Must be technological in nature
  • Must be a component of the taxpayer’s business
  • Must represent R&D in the experimental sense and generally includes all such costs related to the development or improvement of a product or process
  • Must eliminate uncertainty through a process of experimentation that considers one or more alternatives

Eligible costs include US employee wages, cost of supplies consumed in the R&D process, cost of pre-production testing, U.S. contract research expenses, and certain costs associated with developing a patent.

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the PATH Act, making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax for companies with revenue below $50MM and for the first time, pre-profitable and pre-revenue startup businesses can obtain up to $250,000 per year in payroll taxes and cash rebates.

Kettle Bells and Dumbbells

Kettle bell training has multiple benefits. It combines the benefits of muscle toning, cardio respiratory training, fat loss, and muscular endurance to improve strength, flexibility, and increase lean muscle. Those who live a healthy and active lifestyle tend to adopt lifting kettle bells in their exercise routines. Kettle bells are made of iron and come in varying weights. Most of the gear you see at the gym can be 3D printed. This file celebrates kettle bells, which allow you to work out your quads, glutes, abs and shoulders by doing squats with them. They are great for resistance training and will allow you to build strength.

Dumbbells provide a balanced workout as the user is able to control the movements on each hand. A common exercise is a bicep curl which targets your biceps and forearms. Many Zumba, barre and pilates classes use dumbbells to alternate the muscle group being used. A class that may have been aerobic now turns into resistance training allowing the user to experience a full body workout. Resistance training maintains flexibility and improves balance, mobility, and sense of wellbeing. If your dumbbell star nuts have loosened up, you can measure the spiral direction and the screw size to 3D print your very own. You can also print a dumbbell holder to store your weights when they are not in use.

Fitness Equipment

The fitness world is expanding as individuals are looking to take fitness with them wherever they go. Once an activity only done at gyms, people are looking to be active on-the-go as well. Since technology surrounds us almost every minute of the day, why not have more 3D printed materials? For instance, many people who travel to work by bike find it a hassle to constantly break to reach into their pocket for their phone. How about printing your own smart phone mount for any bike? You can search for such at MyMiniFactory where you can select the mold color, and then once it is printed it can be placed on the handlebar of your commuting bicycle. It is also shock absorbing so no need to worry about losing or damaging your phone if you try to jump that curb with your road tires.

Foam roller

Foam rolling is common for most athletes and those who are involved in physical activity. It can help work out the knots in your muscles and help sculpt your abs even more. Commonly referred to as Self Myofascial Release, it is an affordable way to give oneself a deep tissue massage. Foam rollers have proven to increase blood flow, circulation, and flexibility, and decrease muscle tension and stress. Rollingfwd has engineered a full length foam roller that vibrates, prototyped with 3D printers. Physical therapists have determined that vibration therapy is similar to high tech soft massage tools that will help people maintain their bodies, whether it is after surgery or just after a morning jog. The vibrating foam roller will increase the speed at which the body will grow muscle and build bone.

You can also use a foam roller for other parts of the body. Lactic acid is built up in the muscles during exercise as a result of increased energy needs. After a long workout, your body develops scar tissue and lactic acid settles in the muscles. To speed up healing and recovery by moving the lactic acid, athletes roll out their muscles.

Old School Boom Box

Many aerobic fitness instructors use boom boxes for their classes. Instructors look for pure acoustics since any bluetooth device can be connected and there are ports for microphones to play the music loud and clear from a studio to a large gym. The device is called Boomy the Boom Box from AdaBox whose file can be downloaded and 3D printed.


3D printing is also opening up doors for those suffering from injuries. The leader in wheelchair athletics, University of Illinois and the Jones family, worked on designing 3D printed gloves used in training for the Rio Paralympics.

A student attending Illinois State University, Arielle Rausin, customized her racing gloves by using a 3D printer. In elite wheelchair racing, equipment is essential and wheelchairs are usually designed to fit the user’s body. In professional wheelchair racing, the racer wears gloves with a strike pad which is used to hit the rim of the wheel in a forward motion. Rausin was able to scan the glove and 3D print her own for a cheaper price and lighter weight. In fact, during the Rio Olympic Games nine US Paralympics athletes used her gloves to propel themselves, returning to their home country with medals.

Jump rope

Skipping rope increases stamina, agility, and good health. Do you remember Double Dutch or jumping rope with school kids during recess? Any movement where one is using their arms and legs simultaneously builds neurotransmitters making your brain sharper. Train to jump rope again by printing your jump rope on Thingiverse. Choose your color preference and the length of your desired use and then print.

Under Armour

Under Armour helped design the US Olympic suits for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics using more breathable and aerodynamic fabrics for skaters. The suits, designed with computer modeling software, have three layers with polyurethane on the outside. The white material is called H1 and was developed at Under Armour. It has been tested in wind tunnels to obtain the best combination of flow, comfort, movement and speed and has been proven to have top performing materials. Testing in wind tunnels has allowed the company to 3D print sections of the suits that have air-resistance protrusions. The high-tech apparel provides easier energy flow for the Olympians.

Under Armour explores various technologies to produce products that increase athletes’ performance.


3D printing is transforming the fitness and sports industry.  With the increase of interest in healthier lifestyles, people have flocked to gyms. Social media streams exercise tips and how-to videos for those who choose to work out from their home instead of going to a gym. Gym equipment designers are increasingly using additive manufacturing to improve the workout experience for users. Businesses involved in 3D printing fitness equipment may be eligible for R&D Tax Credits.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

Charles Goulding and Alize Margulis of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printed fitness equipment. 


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