Since the early 1990s, BMW has been using 3D printing technology to design its vehicles more efficiently, faster and lighter. From the idea of a car or motorcycle to prototypes and finished parts, AM offers a wide range of uses, especially in the automotive industry. For this reason, BMW launched 3D printing at 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 printing to produce specific sports equipment for its winter athletes. And the equipment is already being used at the current Winter Olympics in Beijing.
3D printing has been part of the BMW production process for several years. 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 their technological expertise, the athletes were able to compete with new spikes. The luge teams, meanwhile, were delighted with the improved sports equipment. But there is another reason for both professional athletes and BMW to be happy: some of the athletes who benefited from BMW equipment have already been able to collect several medals at the Winter Olympics.
BMW uses 3D printing to improve equipment
Together with the BSD team, BMW set itself the goal of scrutinizing every last detail when it comes to the performance of sports equipment. It was clear to both sides that any idea, no matter how innovative, could go a long way toward winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. If we look at skeleton, in which athletes run upside down through an ice channel at speeds of up to 145 km/h, it is clear that the focus here is not only on lightness and speed, but also increasingly the safety of the athletes. In this particular case, BMW introduced the 3D printer solution in 2010: the trestle, the connecting rail between the reclining cockpit and the slide runners. Through additive manufacturing, the vehicle manufacturer managed to reduce the material used to such an extent that the total weight was only half. However, this did not affect other important properties such as the slide’s stability or functionality.
Bobsled and skeleton athletes have also benefited greatly from BMW’s 3D printing technology: a completely new spike attachment that sits between the ice and the boot allows for greater acceleration. In these sports, it is especially important to be able to start quickly, as this has a significant influence on the rest of the race. The sole of the shoe, which has been equipped with 3D-printed spikes, was therefore developed and manufactured in an extremely short time by the German auto giant.
A sustainable and affordable alternative to traditional sporting goods manufacturing
At the beginning of the development process of the spike accessories, a faithful copy of a normal skeleton shoe was made and then analyzed. Many different tests were carried out to find the best shape for the spikes. BMW’s ultimate goal was to be able to identify maximum traction and thus print optimal peaks via the 3D printer. Thanks to additive manufacturing, on the one hand, the shoe became lighter overall, and on the other hand, a better distribution of grip was achieved throughout the forefoot area. 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 profitable alternative to the production of sports equipment, but also a sustainable one. This means that damaged tips, for example, can be replaced quickly and easily. This means that it is not necessary to replace the entire shoe, but only the broken nails. You can learn more about BMW’s use of 3D printing on its website HERE.
Do you think BMW can revolutionize the entire sports industry with 3D printing? Let us know in a comment below or on our Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, bringing the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.
*Cover photo credits: BMW Germany