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BMW pushes German Winter Games athletes with metal 3D printing

Bobsleigh, skeleton, luge and toboggan teams got a little help from shape and weight optimizations

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The athletes of the bobsleigh and sled association for Germany are benefiting BMW’s metal 3D printing expertise: the German bobsleigh and skeleton athletes are already received new spikes for the Winter Games in Beijing, while the tobogganists got some improved sports equipment.

The German bobsleigh, skeleton and luge teams have enjoyed BMW’s support since 2010: the know-how, the infrastructure and the innovations that BMW needs as a manufacturer of its premium vehicles are also available to the athletes as part of a technology partnership. Top performance is the unifying requirement, as is the need to question every detail, no matter how small, and to optimize it with innovative technologies in order to ultimately be that little bit better than the competition. The technology partnership with BMW is particularly valuable for the BSD teams in sports in which fractions of a second decide about victory. Material plays an important role as well.

Additive manufacturing/3D printing has been used in the BMW Additive Manufacturing Campus since 1991, initially primarily in development and prototype construction. Due to the many advantages of the process, it now has a permanent place in the entire product life cycle. Especially in electromobility, 3D printing has become indispensable. Hardware components from the 3D printer can be used in the very early stages of development and put through their paces in test loops. This is because the process is inexpensive, flexible and can be used quickly.

In the ice track, the contact surface between the athlete and the ice, which generates traction and ultimately enables acceleration, plays a decisive role – and that contact surface is the spiked shoe sole. BMW focused on this. The result is a completely new type of spike attachment, which was developed rapidly and just in time for the Winter Games in Bejing.

BMW pushes bobsleigh, skeleton, luge and toboggan teams at Winter Games with metal 3D printing for shape and weight optimizations

For the new 3D printed spikes, a digital image of the real shoe tip geometry was first produced and analyzed. This allowed many different shapes to be tested to eventually identify maximum traction on the ice. The 3D printer created a filigree and stable structure that made the shoe lighter on the one hand and also gave it optimal grip distributed over the entire forefoot area. In addition, the individual wishes of the athletes could be taken into account, since the process allows for a variety of cost-effective variations that would otherwise not be possible.

The German tobogganists at the Winter Games have also benefited from BMW’s support since 2010, and they too benefit from 3D printing. Here the toboggan itself had to be optimized to be as light as possible without losing rigidity. For the BSD, the engineers have made the so-called support frame – the connecting bar between the bassinet and the runners.

By improving the topology and the 3D printing process, the use of materials was reduced to such an extent that the weight of the trestle could be halved without sacrificing functionality and durability. But why do you want to save weight at all? More weight brings more downhill force with the same air resistance and thus more speed. It all depends on where in the toboggan system the weight is optimally placed in order to achieve maximum speed. Since the regulations specify a maximum weight, every gram saved in the sled can be deliberately placed in the right place to improve performance.

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Consumer Products AM 2024

1,346 polymer and metal AM companies and 143 end-users. Consumer products AM generated $2.6 billion in 2023. Segment expected to grow to $28 billion by 2033 at 26.8% CAGR. This new market study fro...

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