This year in the Rio Paralympic games, 3D printing has assisted many sportspersons to complete their gear in a more customized manner. Offering the necessary support and assistance whenever necessary, 3D printed sports accessories are being embraced by many players during the ongoing Rio 2016 Paralympics. Take for instance, Polina Rozkova, athlete from the Latvian Paralympic team who recently sported a custom-fitted 3D printed back brace during the women’s Pool Rounds.
Ranked #8 in the Épée Women Category, Rozkova found it difficult to find a really supportive back gear while fencing in a wheelchair. The need for finding a well-fitted and comfortable brace that would not obstruct movements and render necessary support during her game of fencing was what the athlete was looking for. This quest ended when Latvian reseller of Stratasys 3D printing equipment, Baltic3D, offered her a custom fitted and extremely lightweight back brace fabricated using 3D scanning and printing.
How was Back Brace Manufactured? Designing and the Process
The team of specialists at Baltic3D started with taking a 3D scan of Rozkova’s lower back, which was then utilized to model a personalized brace using WiDE software. Owing to the flexibility of 3D printing technology, the makers were able to not only tailor-make the brace but also fit it to the geometry of her middle spine. This was done to provide adequate support during wheelchair fencing, as the middle spine is the area which typically gets strained when you engage in physical activities. Stratasys’ Nylon 12 3D printing material, recognized for its resilience and fatigue resistance was used to make the brace as it not only ensured comfort but also rendered the desired amount of strength. The 3D printer used by the team was the impressive Stratasys’ Fortus 450mc Production 3D printer.
What Benefits Do the 3D Printed Brace has to Offer?
A major benefit of the 3D technique is that the printing process does not take too long and within a few hours the design team was able to create several iterations of the brace so that Rozkova can find the one that fits the best. In the words of the athlete herself, “Throughout my years as a professional wheelchair fencer, I have been looking for an alternative, and most importantly, sports-appropriate lower back brace to allow me to fence and move freely without any restraints or pain… I'm ecstatic with the result.’’
The 3D printed brace has been much appreciated by Rozkova as it fit much better than her previous braces that not only caused discomfort but also led to several bruises on her body. Although, she did not win a gold this season but her fans and supporters are positive that the new 3D printed customized brace will assist in improving her game and lifting her spirit.
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