AMS Spring 2023

Olympic Cycling Team Made More Aerodynamic with 3D Scanning

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The Italian national cycling team is going for the gold at this week’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and in order to improve their aerodynamic efficiency for competition, the athletes were all 3D scanned, using the Calibry scanner, by 3DiTALY, the Italian partner of Thor3D. The results of these aerodynamic studies were recently outlined in a case study by the scanning company.

Fully-equipped Italian cyclist on bike while being 3D scanned

I’m not what you’d call a big sports fan, but that changes when it’s time for the Olympics—when I’m watching Team USA compete in gymnastics, swimming, beach volleyball, and other events, I yell at the TV louder than my husband does when he watches football. There are numerous examples of 3D technologies being used to help Olympic hopefuls win gold medals, and even earlier this month we heard about a custom 3D printed grip made for a French pistol shooter, and 3D printed bicycle components created for a member of Great Britain’s cycling team. These last two examples were for the Summer Olympic Games taking place right now in Japan, after being postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In terms of cycling, good aerodynamics are critically important to help athletes keep performing at top speeds. The goal of this case study was to capture the most aerodynamic position while a cyclist is decked out in full gear, and then take those measurements and give them to engineers from bike manufacturer Pinarello so they can fabricate custom handlebars.

Graph showing power contributions in cycling on a 1% slope

The biggest factor slowing down a cyclist is the air! Image courtesy of Hale Dynamics

Italian companies HardSkin and Pinarello, the latter of which is very familiar with 3D printing, supply the Italian national team with all of their cycling equipment; Hardskin is in charge of the sportswear, while Pinarello takes care of the bicycles. The two partnered up to figure out how to improve the team’s aerodynamic efficiency in time for the Tokyo Olympics.

Hardskin asked 3DiTALY to digitize both the Pinarello bicycles and the cyclists themselves, and the scanning process took place earlier this year at the Velodrome of Montichiari in Brescia—Italy’s first and only indoor facility fully dedicated to track cycling.

3DiTALY engineer 3D scanning Italian cyclist

Because a 3D model file has all of the information required to analyze an athlete’s position, 3D scanning was chosen for the project, as the technology is a convenient and fast way to capture data. Fast is certainly right, as, according to the Thor3D case study, it only took 3DiTALY two minutes to make a series of accurate, high-resolution models using the Calibry 3D scanner.

Using the Calibry, the 3D body scanning first captured the athlete’s warm-up routine and preparation of “the mechanical medium,” followed by an imitation of an actual bike race in order to determine the most aerodynamic position for the cyclist. Finally, wearing a bodysuit and helmet to simulate the race, the athlete maintained race position on the bike while being scanned.

3D scan data of cyclist in Calibry Nest software

Calibry Nest software was then used to post-process all of the scan data, which was sent to engineers from Pinarello for the aerodynamic studies. Then, in time for this week’s Olympic Games, the bike manufacturer tailor-made a unique handlebar for the cycle, which fits the athlete’s arms perfectly.

(Source/Images: Thor3D)

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