The gloves were used in the wheelchair portion of the paratriathlon final, held on April 7, in which Crowley placed 5th.
At the time of writing this article, Australia tops the current tally with 52 Gold, 39 Silver and 43 Bronze medals.
A competitive team
Crowley’s use of 3D printed gloves was the result of a conversation he had at the UoA’s ThincLab co-working space.
The University of Adelaide granted Crowley and his wife Clair Crowley access to ThincLab for their work with The Good Scout company. The company, started by the Crowleys, provides an accessible travel directory for people with limited mobility.
At ThincLab Crowley met Morgan Hunter, the engineer responsible for ThincLab’s 3D printers. Crowley brought up the difficulties he faced producing adequate customised hand protection for wheelchair racing, which led Morgan to suggest 3D printing gloves.
“Scott told me that he bought a kit that basically came with plastic beads that he melted down and formed to his hands. I thought that’s just crazy, there is no way that he could get the right shape and he must burn his hands” Morgan told The Lead.
Tailor made for performance
Crowley and Morgan spent the next two months developing 3D printed gloves customized for Crowley’s hands.
Initial 3D scans were made of Crowley’s melted plastic gloves, before several iterations and fittings were made to perfectly tailor the gloves to Crowley’s hands.
The gloves resemble pistons that Crowley can form a fist around and weigh 145 grams less than Crowley’s original gloves, a significant reduction in longer races. Two sets of gloves were 3D printed, a dry weather version with a rubber face, and a wet weather version with an abrasive face for better grip.
The final 3D printed gloves cost approximately $100 each, and were fabricated using a Markforged Industrial series 3D printer with Onyx carbon fiber-reinforced nylon, providing excellent rigidity and wear resistance.
Crowley told the University of Adelaide News that “so far the new gloves have performed excellently, much better than my normal gloves. Because they’re light, they also help with recovery time. I’m definitely happy with the outcome.”
“This is the first 3D printed glove I’ve ever had. It’s custom to my hand – it’s very light but still very strong, and it’s consistent. It’s good to have that consistency of shape”
A 3D printing legacy
After the games, reports state that the Queensland Government intends to turn the games Athlete’s village into “one of the most advanced health and knowledge innovation hubs in the Asia-Pacific.”
Griffith University’s Advanced Design and Prototype Technologies Institute, one of many organisations to move into the village, will run an $80 million project advancing the use of 3D printing for the production of medical instruments and anatomical parts, such as bones, for patients.
3D printing has become the first stop for athletes looking to gain a competitive edge with their equipment. MIT, the National University of Singapore and New Balance have collaborated to use 3D printing to develop self-cooling running suits and shoes. Chris Mazdzer won a silver medal in the Luge at this year’s Winter Olympics, with the help of Stratasys 3D printing.
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Featured image shows Morgan Hunter (left), with Scott Crowley (right), holding the finished 3D printed glove. Photo via UoA.