IndyCar Driver Charlie Kimball’s Career is Saved by His Father, 3D Printing, Stratasys & Novo Nordisk

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c1It’s spring and that means one thing if you are a racing fan–the IndyCar Series kicks off. Last year Will Power won the series, but 2015 is a whole new season with many young drivers vying for the title come August. Speeding around a track at speeds up to 200 miles per hour is no joking matter, and although some individuals do not consider IndyCar drivers athletes, drivers must remain in tiptop shape in order to compete, as one mistake could be catastrophic.

While fans excitedly follow their favorite drivers this year, there is a story within the story for one of the American drivers, Charlie Kimball. Kimball, who races for Chip Ganassi Racing, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007 and has a struggle, little known to the other drivers. How does a diabetic regulate their blood sugar while thoroughly concentrating on the track and other vehicles around them, traveling at speeds which are 300% faster than most of us are used to driving? This was a question Kimball had to face as his racing career almost slipped away.

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Device seen on left shoulder/chest

“I was racing in Europe in 2007 when I went to the doctor for an unrelated skin rash. The doctor asked if I had any other issues, and I mentioned that I had been extremely thirsty and drinking a lot of water,” Charlie Kimball told 3DPrint.com in an interview. “He put me on the scale and we realized I had lost 25 pounds in less than one month. It was then that he did a couple of tests and told me I had type 1 diabetes. It was quite a shock, and of course I was most worried about ever being able to drive a race car again.”

3D printed valve - an apparatus that can switch between straws to allow Kimball to choose water or orange juice.

3D printed valve – an apparatus that can switch between straws to allow Kimball to choose water or orange juice to regulate blood sugar.

Luckily for Charlie, his father Gordon Kimball happened to be an engineer, and a fine one at that. Working together, father and son set out to save a racing career, while also ensuring the safety of Charlie while speeding around the track. What was needed was an in-car wearable device that would adequately allow Kimball to monitor and then quickly adjust his blood sugar on the fly during a race by sipping water or orange juice. With no such device available, Gordon designed his own using his engineering skills combined with 3D printing.

“Mainly we were looking for a small production run and wanted it to be lightweight, but we couldn’t find anything on the market that would work,” Charlie explained. “My father was interested in doing the design and learning more about the 3D printing options and technologies available.”

The device they created uses a wearable sensor which notifies Kimball when his blood sugar is too high or too low. He can then access water or orange juice through a valve, which was designed by his father and 3D printed by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. The valve, which is a simple apparatus and allows Kimball to quickly switch straws, choosing between the two liquids, was printed on a Selective Laser Sintering machine out of Nylon 12 PA material.

As for what other drivers think of this little gadget in Kimball’s car, they haven’t said a whole lot yet. “I haven’t heard much feedback from any other driver except that it is a nice little part and overall pretty discreet,” Kimball told us.

One thing is for sure. If it wasn’t for Gordon’s engineering, his drive to design his very first object via 3D printing, and the kind people at Stratasys, Novo Nordisk, and Charlie’s medical team, none of this could have been made possible. Currently this season Kimball is ranked 16th in the Verizon IndyCar Series with 58 points total.

Are you an IndyCar fan? Who’s your favorite driver? What are your thoughts on Kimball’s story? Discuss in the IndyCar Charlie Kimball 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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Device seen at right shoulder

Device seen at left shoulder

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