A New Wave of Technology

by Alex Lombardi on August 20, 2012

Athletes are looking for every competitive advantage they can use to help distinguish themselves from their competition and are constantly pushing the limits of their body. Technology is now doing the same.
Australia’s 2012 Olympic Kayak team employed Creaform’s REVscan to create custom kayak parts (usually made of foam and wood for the seat of the kayak) known as a “fitout”. Although a fitout sounds like a simple piece of equipment, it can help competitors shave precious fractions of a second in competition. Ami Drory, a biomechanist at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) was in charge of enhancing the design of fitouts for kayakers in the canoe slalom event at the 2012 London Olympics.
“The transfer forces applied through the paddle is a primary determinant of success,” said Drory. “A good fitout allows the athlete to use their full range of motion while transferring as much force as possible into the water.”
Previous methods of creating custom fitouts were not easily repeatable as large amounts of material, time and effort were wasted.
“There can be a frustrating process of trial and error and wasted material before you get it right,” said Drory.
Drory was tasked with creating around a dozen custom fitouts in a small time window. He wanted to create a time effective way of repeating custom manufactured parts. Drory would have to start with athlete’s bodies and boat frames and end with distinctive, unique kayaking equipment.
 The first step was to scan the athlete in racing position. Previous capturing devices were not able to accurately capture the detail needed to create custom fitouts. To tackle this issue, the AIS brought in Sébastien Dubois, an application specialist from Creaform.
Dubois brought a REVscan with him to the AIS facility in Australia. Its compact nature made it easy to transport, handle and operate in an unfamiliar environment. The 3D scanner weighs just over two pounds, with a resolution of 0.004” and an accuracy of 0.05”. The REVscan was used at a distance of 12-inches, making ideal for accurate, up-close scanning. It’s perfect for natural contours, like on human bodies, and produces highly accurate and detailed results.
Kayaker Jessica Fox (pictured) was scanned in race position by wearing a netting of position markers. Dubois and Drory created an initial digital model of this data. The scanning technology plotted approximately 3,500,000 polygons-worth of 3D points in around one hour.  Another two-hour scan diagrammed the entire interior of Fox’s kayak.

Next, using Creaform’s VXelements (which can fill in spaces in a digital model based on surrounding position points) Dubois created an STL file of the scans. These files were imported and edited in Geomagic Studio. Once in CAD format, the 3D scan data was used to enable precise modeling of the kayak fitout, which was perfectly shaped and customized according to each athlete’s unique body shape. Using this procedure, Dubois captured and processed 11 athletes’ scans in only three days. A remarkable feat of speed and precision.

“This project was a fast and efficient workflow from measurement to manufacturing that is individualized for each athlete,” said Drury.  “The optimal boat fitout for each athlete may have a significant positive impact on the performance and success of those athletes in the 2012 London Olympics.”

Vice president of marketing at Creaform, Stéphane Auclair , also spoke about the success of the project.  “The Olympics is always a place where barriers and limits are meant to be broken.  This is the sort of project which really illustrates how 3D scanning advancements are changing what is possible.  More and more, we are seeing how objects can be made to conform to fit unique body shapes very quickly, and as a result creating products that become a comfortable extension of ourselves.”

The question everyone wants to know the answer to is: will the enhanced kayak fitouts help the Australians medal at London this summer? Only time will tell. They should have a paddle up on their opponents! Canoe Slalom takes place from July 31, 2012 through August 5th, 2012.

About the author: Alex Lombardi is a technology writer and insider with a focus on 3D technology. He writes about how 3D technology affects our everyday lives. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter

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