BMW supports Olympic athletes with 3D printing

Since the early 1990s, BMW has used 3D printing technology to design its vehicles more efficiently, faster and lighter. From the idea of ​​a car or motorcycle to prototypes and finished spare parts, AM has a wide range of uses, especially in the automotive industry. For this reason, BMW launched 3D printing on the BMW Additive Manufacturing Campus in 2019. However, it is also clear that additive manufacturing has other applications for the company beyond the cars it is known for. German bobsleigh, skeleton and luge teams are currently benefiting from BMW’s use of 3D printers to produce sports gear specifically for their winter athletes. And the equipment is already in use at the current Winter Olympics in Beijing.

3D printing has been part of BMW’s production process for several years now. And now German athletes from the Bobsleigh and Sledding Association (BSD) have also been able to benefit from the company’s innovative ideas. Thanks to its technological expertise, athletes were able to compete with new crampons. The luge teams, on the other hand, rejoiced at the improved sports equipment. But professional athletes and BMW have another reason to be happy: some of the athletes who have benefited from BMW equipment have already been able to collect numerous medals at the Winter Olympics.

BMW incorporates the individual wishes of the athletes (photo credits: BMW Germany)

BMW uses 3D printing to improve its equipment

Together with the BSD team, BMW has set itself the goal of examining every detail in terms of the performance of sports equipment. It was clear to both parties that any idea, no matter how innovative, could go a long way towards winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. If you look at skeleton, in which athletes run belly-first through a channel of ice at speeds of up to 145 km/h, it’s clear that the focus here is not just on lightness and speed, but also increasingly on the safety of the athletes. In this particular case, BMW presented the 3D printer solution in 2010: the trestle – the connecting spar between the recumbent tub and the slide runners. Thanks to additive manufacturing, the car manufacturer managed to reduce the material used so much that the total weight was only half. However, this did not affect other important properties such as the slide’s stability or functionality.

Bobsleigh and skeleton athletes have also benefited enormously from BMW’s 3D printing technology: an all-new advanced binding that sits between the ice and the boot allows for greater acceleration. In these sports, it is particularly important to be able to start quickly, as this has a significant influence on the rest of the race. Thus, the sole of the shoe, which was equipped with the 3D printed spikes, was developed and manufactured in an extremely short time by the German automotive giant.

A durable and affordable alternative to traditional sporting goods manufacturing

Early in the cleat attachment development process, a faithful copy of a normal skeleton shoe was made and analyzed. Many different tests were done to find the best shape for the tips. BMW’s ultimate goal was to be able to identify maximum traction and therefore print optimal peaks using the 3D printer. Thanks to additive manufacturing, the shoe has become overall lighter on the one hand and a better distribution of grip over the entire forefoot area has been achieved on the other. Of course, the individual wishes of the athletes were also taken into account during production. With 3D printing, the Bavarian car manufacturer not only demonstrates a cost-effective alternative to the production of sports equipment, but also a sustainable alternative. This means that damaged tips, for example, can be replaced quickly and easily. This means that it is not necessary to replace the whole shoe, only the broken spikes. You can read more about BMW’s use of 3D printing on their website HERE.

BMW has been supporting German tobogganers with 3D printed sports equipment since 2010 (photo credits: BMW Germany)

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*Cover photo credits: BMW Germany

Naomi C. Amerson