Disabled triathlete uses 3D printing to overcome barriers in Ironman race

Extrusion technology used on custom wheelchair handles

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Florian Jouanny is almost completely paralyzed. He is also the second man to complete the infamous Ironman Triathlon. 3D printing technology is helping him overcome barriers in this grueling race.

Even able-bodied people struggle to complete the infamous Ironman Triathlon. Contestants must complete three stages in less than 17 hours: swim 3.86 km outside, cycle 180.2 km and run a marathon (42.195 km). Jouanny has done it twice.

Florian Jouanny There are always obstacles to overcome. During one of the races, the tire on Jouanny’s wheelchair was damaged. Frustrated by the limitations of his equipment, he started looking for solutions and materials that would better prepare him for the race.

One thing he wanted to improve was the handles of his hand-bike. As Jouanny is paralyzed, he struggles to hold and grasp items. He thus turned to Athletics 3D, a specialized sports equipment company, to create handles that would take advantage of Jouanny’s strength. By helping him move his hands forward, they would give him more power to drive the wheelchair.

Jouanny’s power was then measured in watts while working on an optimized handle to assess whether their solution made any difference and whether it produced the desired effect. Thanks to measurements and adjustments during the designing process, they managed to increase his power efficiency and improve his equipment.

Work on the handles was sped up by lending Jouanny a filament extrusion 3D printer. After being shown how to use the device, Jouanny was able to create prototypes at home. He printed new handles for his wheelchair and then tested them on long rides. A new file, based on his comments,  was then sent to Jouanny so he that could print and test the latest version of the handle, resulting in a perfect fit.

Using an extremely durable filament in the final printed model created handles strong enough to be used in real training sessions – all from a 3D desktop printer*.

“I struggle to grip things with my hands, so I could not fully use my capabilities. The handles adjust to my disability enable me to pedal more effectively. I liked that I could use the 3D printer at my flat while working on the project. It made me feel like a member of the team creating the handles,” said Jouanny.

The improved handles will be used during the Paralympic World Cup in the Dutch town of Emmen in September 2019. Jouanny will compete in the electric bike race. Based on his results, the team working on his equipment will optimize it for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

*The system used was a Zortrax M200


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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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