3D printed bike handles accelerate disabled athlete to the Paralympic World Cup

Athletics 3D, a French manufacturer of customized sports equipment, has used 3D printing to aid tetraplegic athlete, Florian Jouanny.

Jouanny, the first European tetraplegic to finish the Ironman Triathlon, struggled to grip the handles of his handbike due to his paralysis. In collaboration with Athletics 3D, the para-cyclist designed and 3D printed custom bike handles which improve the rate of force generated from his hands into energy driving the bike.

The improved handles will be used during the Paralympic World Cup in Emmen, the Netherlands, this September. Depending on Jouanny’s performance, the 3D printed handles will be further developed for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.   

Tetraplegic athlete, Florian Jouanny. Photo via Laurent Salino/Zortrax.
Tetraplegic athlete, Florian Jouanny. Photo via Laurent Salino/Zortrax.

3D printed pedaling power

In 2011, Jouanny was left almost entirely paralyzed after a skiing accident. Despite this, the 27-year-old remained active by training and ultimately participating in triathlons and cycling competitions. The Ironman Triathlon, in particular, is one of the most challenging competitions as it includes a 2.4 miles long swim, a 112-mile bicycle race, and a 26.22 miles-long marathon.

Clocking in at approximately 15 hours, Jouanny has completed the Ironman twice. Clement Jacquelin, the CEO of Athletics 3D, said, “Florian is a two times French handbike champion, so he certainly is a force to be reckoned with.”

“Florian can use his forearms, triceps, and hands to some extent, although his grip is significantly weaker than normal. He can’t press with his fingers, but can make pushing movements.”

By measuring Jouanny’s kinetic energy used to pedal the handbike, 3D printed handles were created on the Zortrax M200 3D printer for “improving the energy-efficiency of the whole system consisting of the bike and the athlete,” added Jacquelin.

One of the 3D printed bike handles. Photo via Zortrax.
One of the 3D printed bike handles. Photo via Zortrax.

On-demand handling

The team at Athletics 3D designed handles that would not only be durable for arduous races but work to optimize Jouanny’s pedaling powder. An M200 was installed at Jouanny’s home from the design team so that various prototypes could be swiftly tested.

The first material used for the handles was Z-ABS; this led to Z-PETG. “These proved to be too weak for pushing a bike forward for 112 miles,” stated Jacquelin. “One of the early prototypes got broken pretty fast so we had to deal with it somehow.” Thus, the designers landed on Z-ULTRAT.

A 3D printed bike handle prototype. Photo via Zortrax.
A 3D printed bike handle prototype. Photo via Zortrax.

Jouanny also 3D printed his own prototypes from Z-ULTRAT as well as the designs sent by Athletics 3D. During this process, Jouanny realized the untapped potential in his hands due to his lack of grip. “Now I feel like I can pedal more efficiently because the new handle is designed specifically for my kind of disability.”

“We are going to see how the 3D printed handle performs in Emmen, and use this experience to design an even better one for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympics,” explained Jacquelin.

Athletics 3D previously used 3D printing to help French biathlete, Martin Fourcade, to get the gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics with a custom small-bore rifle. Following this, the company aided Celine and Sandrine Goberville, professional 10-meter air pistol shooting athletes, to create and test custom pistol 3D printed grips.

Florian Jouanny and Clement Jacquelin, the CEO of Athletics 3D . Photo via Laurent Salino/Zortrax.
Florian Jouanny and Clement Jacquelin, the CEO of Athletics 3D, with the 3D printed bike handles. Photo via Laurent Salino/Zortrax.

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Featured image shows Tetraplegic athlete, Florian Jouanny. Photo via Laurent Salino/Zortrax.

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