Just heading under way today, the Tour de France individual time trials are sure to draw a lot of national and international attention. Besides cyclists’ impressive athleticism, however, viewers may also want to take note of impressive new technologies featured on the track this year. At today’s event, Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin will be donning an innovative suit designed with precision through 3D printing and scanning technologies.
Scanning and assembling a life-size model
Dumoulin’s team Giant-Alpecin partnered with engineers and researchers from TU Delft to create the custom fitted suit. Because of scheduling and training, Dumoulin was unable to be present for the entire creation of the suit. As a solution, the team at TU Delft enlisted the help of 3D scanning company th3rd, who used 150 DSLR cameras to capture detailed photos of Dumoulin’s body from every angle. The photos were then used to create a 3D scan of the athlete’s body through a photogrammetry method. The whole scanning process only took 30 minutes
The scan was then used to create a life-size 3D printed mannequin of Dumoulin. “We had to slice the [3D printed] body into four parts,” says one designer on the project. “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.” The team faced a challenge printing such a large object, which took a total of 50 hours to print and construct. Printed on multiple FDM printers, the solid mannequin was then assembled with pin and hole joints into a biking position, ready for testing.
A mannequin in action
The mannequin was used in multiple wind tunnel tests to develop an aerodynamic design, taking into account various effects such as wind drag and different materials and fabrics. The model helped the team create a truly optimized, custom suit for Dumoulin, giving him the ultimate competitive advantage. Researchers expect that the suit will eliminate seconds or even fractions of a second off the cyclist’s overall time. Checkout how this innovative suit helped Dumoulin in the end here.