When it comes to functionality, 3D printing is really beginning to make great progress. A technology which was once used solely for prototyping parts is beginning to gain traction in producting custom end-use products as well. For some students at the University of Bath, 3D printing provided the means for quite the unique project.
In particular, one 3rd year MEng Mechanical Engineering student at the university, named Duncan Potts, was in charge of running a project which looked to 3D print lacrosse stick heads for the school’s lacrosse team.
“The idea came from Alex Hultin, a PhD student who wanted to investigate how teams work together, so he set a challenge for Bath and Bristol University lacrosse teams to produce a teams-worth of lacrosse heads for £500, after which we would play a game against each other with them,” Duncan Potts tells 3DPrint.com. “The heads could be made out of anything, but due to the 5 week competition length, and price limit, we decided 3D printing would be the best option.”
There were rules put forth which included ensuring that the stick heads adhered to the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) men’s field lacrosse standards in all respects. The weight of the heads had to be under the 300g limit, and they had to be constructed in such a way to ensure that they would not shatter on impact. At the same time, dimensions of the heads needed to remain within the official guidelines as well.
Using SolidEdge St6, Potts and the other students involved first created a CAD model and 3D printed prototype. Then after iterating upon the design a bit, they 3D printed 10 more final lacrosse stick heads. All of the heads are approximately the same size and shape as one another, although some of them were printed in two separate parts while others were printed in 3 sections.
The team used a Denford Up! Plus 3D printer, as well as an Ultimaker 2 to print out the different stick heads. Once the 3D printed ABS parts were taken off of the printer bed, they were pinned together using steel pins and then glued with epoxy resin. The heads each took approximately 20 hours to print out, and they pretty much came out exactly how the students had envisioned.
“We have strung the heads and they throw and catch OK,” Potts tells us. “The catching area is quite small due to how the head was designed to incorporate the pins for assembly. We haven’t tried testing them with stick checking yet, as we don’t want to break them before the match, which is taking place on 2nd June. They are very rigid, so will likely be brittle when they are hit, so we aim to change our gameplay to avoid contact where possible. Mass produced lacrosse heads are made from injection moulded nylon, with is tough and flexible, so they stand up well to the abuse that the sticks take in a lacrosse match.”
All of those involved are interested in seeing just how well these custom 3D printed heads hold up to in-game action. They suspect that there could be layer separation that occurs, but ultimately see 3D printing as providing quite a bit of potential in the customization of lacrosse sticks in the future.
“It allows for any shape to be produced, which could be extensively researched to improve throwing and catching performance, but with the materials available, I just tried to make the design as sturdy as possible,” explains Potts.
It should be interesting to see how things go on June 2nd, when the two teams from two different universities meet for this historic lacrosse match. Who will come out on top? Only time will tell!
What do you think about this unique use of 3D printing to create custom lacrosse stick heads? Will 3D printing be utilized more and more in the future for end-use athletic gear? Discuss in the 3D Printed Lacrosse Stick forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the video of the original 3D printed stick head below.