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CRP USA 3D prints race-ready parts for the USABS’s bobsled

Playing a crucial role in advancing the Winter Olympics athletes' performance through the creation of functional, stress-resistant, and flexible Windform components

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CRP USA, a leading US-based 3D printing company, has collaborated with USA Bobsled/Skeleton (USABS) to manufacture cutting-edge, race-ready 3D printed bobsled parts – leveraging the innovative Windform family of high-performance materials.

Following the officialization of the technology partnership, CRP USA has played a crucial role in advancing Winter Olympics athletes’ performance through the creation of functional, stress-resistant, and flexible 3D printed components for the USABS’s bobsled. These parts, including push handles, hand grips, and seats, have been pivotal in optimizing acceleration, minimizing forces, and ensuring enhanced performance during races. All these parts are manufactured using Windform materials – push handles using Windform SP, and hand grips and seats using Windform XT 2.0.

Windform XT 2.0 and Windform SP are two Carbon fiber-filled composites from the Windform TOP-LINE range of materials for professional 3D printing – Selective Laser Sintering – created by the Italy-based company CRP Technology.

CRP USA 3D prints functional, stress-resistant, flexible, and race-ready Windform parts for the USABS’s Winter Olympics bobsled.
USABS team with Brian Shimer, Head coach; Curt Tomasevicz, High Performance Director; Marc van den Berg, Technology and Equipment Lead at CRP USA’s headquarters in the day of the wind tunnel test. Credit: USABS.

The partnership between CRP USA and USABS aligns with the ongoing project initiated by USABS to develop new bobsleds for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in 2026. All components are made in the USA through the collaborative efforts of various partners participating in the Made-in-USA project.

CRP USA was introduced to USABS by one of their technical partners, a local company that specializes in carbon fiber products. Since then, the CRP USA team of experts and the USABS team had multiple meetings which resulted in a joint effort from both parties to determine the right materials for their components.

“The big advantage of 3D printing for the USA Bobsled/Skeleton team is that no molds need to be made, so a huge amount of time is saved and the costs remain much lower. Not to mention a much faster delivery of the parts because no mold is required. The 3D process also has many advantages because more complex parts can be made,” said Marc van den Berg, Technology and Equipment Lead for USABS.

Without the right materials, the use of 3D printing technology is not the right solution for many of the projects. However, this was not the case here thanks to CRP’s Windform materials. “Complying with the regulations, in terms of shapes and dimensions was the main constraint,” said van den Berg, adding that another very important factor was the stress resistance. “During the start of the races, there is large forces on the bobsled. Also, bobsled crashes must be considered. For those reasons, the construction materials have to be flexible and strong, to avoid parts breakage.”

The manufacture of push handles is an excellent example of the efficiency of the 3D printing process combined with the right construction material, especially when supported by skilled technical staff who are attentive to the customer’s needs. “The USABS team needed to easily produce the push handles, in addition, to customize the handles based on each athlete and easily change them out,” said Nathanael Baker, Senior Project Coordinator for CRP USA.

Finished push handle before assembly. Credit: USABS.

For these specific components, the CRP USA’s evaluation led to the identification of Windform SP as the most suitable construction material for its characteristics of resistance to shock, vibrations, and deformation (Density 68 °F: 1.106 g/cc, Density 20 °C:  1,106 g/cc; Melting Point: 380 °F, Melting Point: 193,3 °C; HDT 1.82 Mpa: 368 °F, HDT 1.82 Mpa: 186,5 °C; Tensile Strength: 11000 psi, Tensile Strength: 76,10 Mpa; Elongation at Break: 11.38% just to cite some properties).

As soon as the handles were 3D printed, CRP USA shipped them to USABS, receiving praise for the speed of manufacturing and delivery. Marc van den Berg and the USABS team were thus able to study, test, and modify the parts according to their needs in record time.

“By avoiding the construction of expensive molds, we were able to quickly carry out several tests using slightly different shapes based on the needs that arose from time to time. The speed of execution and delivery by CRP USA allowed us to test the push handles to evaluate their resistance to stress and ergonomics, carrying out the necessary iterations until we achieved the optimal result for us,” said van den Berg. “We don’t have an official test program – we assemble the parts and use them in a race. And so we did with the 3D printed parts in Windform: This means that the seat, hand grip, and rear push handle were immediately tested in a real race!”

CRP USA 3D prints functional, stress-resistant, flexible, and race-ready Windform parts for the USABS’s Winter Olympics bobsled.
Assembled push handles. Credit: USABS.

“The biggest requirement of the rear push levers is that they must remain intact if the bobsled crashes, and that is what happened in this race, the bobsled crashed and the handles were not broken!” said van den Berg, adding that the team was impressed by the performance of the 3D printed bobsled push handles. “The final results were perfect – fast delivery and endless design possibility. Hopefully, we can 3D print more parts in the future, perhaps even a complete bobsled!”

USA Bobsled/Skeleton is the national governing body for the sports of bobsled and skeleton racing in the United States. Based in Lake Placid, NY, USA Bobsled/Skeleton oversees the development and training of American athletes at all levels of competition, from grassroots programs to the national team.

The 3D printed parts in Windform made their official debut at the IBSF North American Cup (NAC) – from the 15th to the 19th November 2023 – with excellent results: the USABS team won 2-man bobsleigh, Women’s monobob, 2-woman bobsleigh, and 4-man bobsleigh.

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Edward Wakefield

Edward is a freelance writer and additive manufacturing enthusiast looking to make AM more accessible and understandable.

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