Tour De France is the oldest and generally considered the most prestigious cycle racing annual event that passes trough mountain chains of the Pyrenees and the Alps, and the finish on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The 21 day-long race is also called the most difficult of the cycle races which covers around 3,500 kilometres. Around 20 to 22 teams participate every year in tour de france with nine riders in each team.
This year’s edition started on 2 July 2016 and as usual there has been a lot of focus on intricate details on the kind of gears these cyclists use. Fascinating for me is the use of 3D printing to get technological edge over other teams in this year’s edition. The Dutch team has made an innovative suit for its rider Tom Dumoulin with the help of 3D Scanning and 3D Printing Technologies.
Tom Dumoulin, the 26 year old Dutch is world's most high-profile cyclists and as a professional cyclist has a very tight schedule. So when his team Giant-Alpecin wanted to create custom fitted cycling suit for him they has their task cut out.
So they collaborated with engineers and researchers from TU Delf to use 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques to overcome the UN availability of Tom Dumoulin due to his tight scheduling and training. TU Delft used photogrammetry scanning techniques with a scanning rig which used 150 High end DSLR Cameras to capture detailed photos of Dumoulin’s body from every angle. The scanning took anywhere between 20 to 30 minutes to completely scan Dumoulin’s body with extreme detail.
Once the scan was complete the images received from the scanning rig was stitched together to create a 3d mesh, that could be used to create 3D Printed Mannequin of Tom Dumoulin.
Team Delft released a press release which described the printing process of this 3D Model which said “We had to slice the [3D printed] body into four parts. The straight leg, we could print in one time. The curved leg we had to print in two pieces. Also, the head was printed separately and the two arms.” According to reports this 3D Printed Model was created using FDM printers and took around 50 hours to print and construct.
This 3D Printed Mannequin then fitted with the newly designed Cycle Suit and then fitted on a cycle very similar to the one Tom Dumoulin rides. This 3D Printed model was then put inside a wind tunnel which tested the suit for wind drag. After a few tests the team was successful in selecting the right kind of fabric and material best suited for lesser wind drag.
While we would not want to take away anything from Tom Dumoulin, but the results are quite obvious. He has won Stage 9 after attacking from a breakaway on the lower slopes of Andorre Arcalis, and riding up the climb solo in torrential rain. Dumoulin also won Stage 13, a 37.5km time trial over hilly terrain in windy conditions, by a margin of over a minute to Chris Froome in second place.