3D Printing

3D printing enabled French biathlete to train despite injury

14th June 2022
Paige West

Athletics 3D, a French company making custom sports gear, used the Zortrax M300 Dual 3D printer working with BASF Ultrafuse PP GF30 filament to make a modified hand stop to enable one of their star biathletes to train despite a wrist injury.

This configuration was used to achieve desired mechanical properties and excellent performance in very low temperatures reaching -25°C.

Most polymers perform poorly when it’s freezing. In sub-zero temperatures they lose some of their mechanical properties and become brittle. BASF PP Ultrafuse GF30, a polypropylene-based composite reinforced with 30% addition of glass fibre, is one of the notable exceptions. This, besides its excellent surface quality, convinced Clement Jacquelin, the CEO and founder of Athletics 3D, to use it for printing a custom hand stop for a biathlon rifle.  

“World Cup biathlon races are done in temperatures as low as -25°C. This is the winter sport after all. And such low temperatures tend to degrade the mechanical performance of most polymers. Materials such as PLA or even ABS tend to become brittle when it’s freezing. That’s why the French team coaches insisted on choosing the material that could perform in low-temperature conditions. Thanks to BASF Ultrafuse PP GF 30 we had no problem with that. The material’s exhibited the same, excellent performance in both freezing cold and relatively mild temperatures just below 0°C,” says Clement Jacquelin, the CEO and founder of Athletics 3D.

The custom biathlon rifle hand stop was designed to compensate for the extent and nature of movement restrictions caused by the injury. Hospital examination revealed that the radius and ulna, two bones in the forearm, were fractured. This meant that the athlete’s forearm supination and ulnar deviation angle were severely limited which rendered aiming with a standard biathlon rifle impossible in the prone position. The custom hand stop was finally 3D printed on the Zortrax M300 Dual which was factory-calibrated to work with BASF Ultrafuse PP GF30.

According to Jacquelin, 3D printers often have issues with accurately reproducing irregular, organic shapes. Ergonomic designs used in sports gear are always challenging and utmost precision is necessary to achieve the desired effect. Because the Zortrax M300 Dual handles such tasks exceptionally well, Athletics 3D could achieve excellent surface quality requested by their client. 

“Professional sports are very often used as a testbed for new, innovative technologies. 3D printing is no exception. We are proud that Zortrax 3D printers working with materials coming from world-leading manufacturers such as BASF Forward AM can deliver the performance necessary at the very pinnacle of disciplines like biathlon,” says Mariusz Babula, the CEO of Zortrax S.A.

BASF Ultrafuse PP GF30 is also used outside of professional sports. Due to its mechanical strength and thermal stability, the PP GF30 is widely used in automotive industry. The material is also exceptionally stiff and resistant to various chemicals and UV light. Along with other engineering filaments like BASF Ultrafuse PAHT CF15 or Z-NYLON, BASF Ultrafuse PP GF30 is aimed at professional users willing to work with the Zortrax M300 Dual 3D printer in more advanced applications.

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