Last week, 3-D printing company Stratasys revealed details of its collaboration with USA Luge for the 2018 Winter Olympics. As the company explained, by harnessing the power of Stratasys’ fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3-D printing technology, the luge team is now able to more rapidly and cost-effectively build and test customized racing sleds tailored to the body of each athlete.

USA Luge tapped into a wide range of high-performance materials from Stratasys to 3-D print key layup and sacrificial tools used during manufacturing of carbon-fiber composite sleds. Additive manufacturing is key for engineering mandrels for the racing team’s “Doubles Tower” – a composite structure at the sled’s front, used to accurately position riders’ legs during competition. Extremely difficult to fabricate due to complex, trapped-tool geometry – the structure guarantees proper athlete fit and position while racing. Leveraging the Stratasys ST-130 sacrificial (wash-out) tooling material, team designers were able to 3-D print the mandrel, layup and cure the composite structure, and wash-out the tooling material – all in less than one week.

“Competitive luge racing is an extremely demanding sport where fractions of a second are the difference between winning and losing. Our riders depend on comfortable, aerodynamic sled designs to win races,” said USA Luge Technical Programs Manager, Jon Owen. “In teaming with Stratasys, we’ve become much more competitive on the world stage – continuously adjusting designs and running them on the track much faster than traditional processes. Additionally, we’ve balanced both comfort and performance by tailoring the sled to each rider’s body, while minimizing fabrication cost and time.”

Based on the success of Doubles Tower construction, Team USA has pushed the technology even further by 3-D printing the entire sled body layup tool. This particular design incorporates a removable middle section, allowing tool length to adjust based on each rider’s height. Driven by these efforts during prototyping, designers are currently using this same tooling for final sled components during competition.

“Partnering with USA Luge highlights a perfect example of an environment where our additive manufacturing technology enables customers to meet critical needs in specialized applications,” said Scott Sevcik, Vice President of Manufacturing Solutions at Stratasys. “We’re proud to partner with Team USA, one of the best teams in winter sports, to help them apply the power of FDM technology to keep moving faster, in the shop, and on the track.”

To learn more about other composite applications you’ll see during the rest of the 2018 Winter Olympics, check out these articles on composite bobsleds and skis.