Team USA Luge has chosen additive manufacturing to help in its quest for gold in Pyeongchang, South Korea this month. The company is working with Stratasys and its FDM 3D printing technology to more rapidly and cost-effectively build and test custom racing sleds tailored to the body of each athlete.
USA Luge is tapping into a range of high-performance materials from Stratasys to 3D print key layup and sacrificial tools used during manufacturing of carbon-fiber composite sleds. The capability of FDM enables a level of customization not possible with standard composite fabrication – a critical success factor in racing sleds that often travel at speeds upwards of 87 miles per hour.
Additive manufacturing is key for engineering mandrels for the racing team’s Doubles Tower – a composite structure at the sled’s front, used to accurately position riders’ legs during competition. Extremely difficult to fabricate due to complex, trapped-tool geometry – the structure guarantees proper athlete fit and position while racing.
Leveraging the Stratasys ST-130 sacrificial (wash-out) tooling material, team designers were able to 3D print the mandrel, layup and cure the composite structure, and wash-out the tooling material – all in less than one week.
“Competitive luge racing is an extremely demanding sport where fractions of a second are the difference between winning and losing. Our riders depend on comfortable, aerodynamic sled designs to win races,” said USA Luge Technical Programs Manager, Jon Owen. “In teaming with Stratasys, we’ve become much more competitive on the world stage – continuously adjusting designs and running them on the track much faster than traditional processes. Additionally, we’ve balanced both comfort and performance by tailoring the sled to each rider’s body, while minimizing fabrication cost and time.”
Based on the success of Doubles Tower construction, Team USA has pushed the technology further by 3D printing the entire sled body layup tool. This particular design incorporates a removable middle section, allowing tool length to adjust based on each rider’s height. Driven by these efforts during prototyping, designers are currently using this same tooling for final sled components during competition.
“Stratasys customers push the limits of performance, efficiency, and reliability for 3D printed rapid tooling, prototypes and production parts. Partnering with USA Luge highlights a perfect example of an environment where our additive manufacturing technology enables customers to meet critical needs in specialized applications,” said Scott Sevcik, Vice President of Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys.
Competitive luge races in Pyeongchang are taking place February 10-15, with Stratasys-powered sleds leading the way.