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A 3D PRINTED MANNEQUIN OF TOUR DE FRANCE CYCLIST TOM DUMOULIN HELPS GAIN A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Well, we’re all suffering a little here in the studio from post Olympic blues, after becoming armchair experts on the finer points of Rhythmic Gymnastics, Taekwondo and of course the Keirin.

Cycling is one of the sports that we Brits appear to excel at these days, and its in no small part due to the amount of technology that is employed in developing the equipment that help our cyclists achieve their super human feats.

This marriage of technology and supreme athleticism was no more clearly demonstrated than by Team Giant-Alpecin earlier this year when in collaboration with Delft University they developed a new aerodynamic skin suit for Tom Dumoulin for use in the Tour de France time trial on 15 July.

As Dumoulin himself states, ‘It’s split seconds that count in cycling, especially during a time trial , so if a faster suit can deliver only a small improvement, this can still make the difference’, according to Tom Dumoulin. After all, the margin between Tom Dumoulin and the runner-up in the prologue of the Giro d’Italia was a mere twenty two thousandths of a second.

This story was of particular interest to us as we’re about to invest in a new rapid prototyping unit ourselves to compliment the one that we’ve had here in the studio for the past 10 years or so. Read on to find out why.

Scientifically speaking, you’d ideally have unlimited access to the athlete, in order to conduct extensive wind tunnel tests and develop the perfect suit for them specifically. However, you can’t place a professional cyclist in a wind tunnel for weeks on end. The consequent idea developed at the TU Delft was to not place the cyclist himself in the wind tunnel, but a mannequin with the exact same physical measurements. An even more important upside to the use of a mannequin in the wind tunnel: it remains perfectly still, so measuring the airflows around the body becomes much quicker and more accurate.

‘It took several steps to make the suit more aerodynamic. First, Dumoulin’s body was accurately scanned. Next, using this data, a precise, full-size mannequin of his body was 3D printed. This mannequin was then used to take measurements with different suits and materials in the TU Delft wind tunnel’, explains Dr Daan Bregman of the TU Delft Sports Engineering Institute.

It took them about 50 hours to print the mannequin up to 20 micrometres precise. The method they used is called Fused Deposition Modelling, in which the model is built up in plastic layer-by-layer.’ which is the same technology employed in our new RP unit. Not that we’re thinking of replicating anyone here in the studio just yet!