Athletes competing in the Summer Olympics are reaping the benefits of a lighter, higher performance cleat made possible with 3d printing, but the Paralympics - which begin in early September - serve as another platform for 3d printing to help athletes gain an edge.
Wheelchair racing Paralympian Aerelle Jones will be competing next month in Rio using customized gloves that were made at her local public library's 3d printing lab, which are designed to provide her with high strength, efficient movements as she pushes herself forward thousands of times during each race.
“There are actual 3D-printed gloves that are being used right now in training by the team that is going to Rio for the United States,” Raymond Jones, Aerelle;s father told Kentucky.com. “It’s kind of fun to think that here we are in little Jessamine County in a public library and we are working on a project that is being used by the U.S. team that’s going to the Paralympics this year.”
The family's local library in Kentucky has a 3d scanner and a 3d printer, equipment which allowed them to generate 3d data of Aerelle's hand and then produce a glove that fits her specific hand with PLA plastic. Since Paralympians equipment needs can vary from athlete to athlete, having custom gloves designed for Aerelle can, in theory, provide her with greater strength and grip as she goes for gold.
“When you consider that you’re taking your hand and you are stretching it way behind your back and then bringing it all the way to the rim thousands of times per race," Jones said, "that lighter glove makes it easier. The second (advantage) is that there’s not give in a custom-designed glove, so you are applying more force to the rim.”