Protolabs reduces injury risk with knockout 3D printed boxing training aid

On-demand digital manufacturing provider Protolabs has helped to produce a novel boxing training aid that aims to reduce injury and improve performance using its Polyjet 3D printing service.

The Boxing Hand Grenade (BHG) is a training aid developed by Shrewsbury-based personal trainer and martial arts instructor John Docherty after he sustained a cumulative hand and wrist injury from boxing. Docherty chose Protolabs to produce a prototype of the BHG, and the device has since been used within the training camp of US boxer Gervonta “Tank” Davis, boxing legend Floyd Mayweather’s protégé.

“The idea for the BHG came after I used a piece of foam I found on the gym floor to grip in my fist whilst I was sparring with a client,” said Docherty. “It had the effect of improving the structural integrity of the hand and absorbing the impact shock from a punch, so the idea for the Boxing Hand Grenade was born and the response has been fantastic.”

Left: Boxing Hand Grenade developer John Docherty and (right) Protolabs Application Engineer Charlotte-Anne Smith. Photo via Protolabs.
Left: Boxing Hand Grenade developer John Docherty and (right) Protolabs’ Sian Caliburn. Photo via Protolabs.

Prototyping with Polyjet 3D printing

In 3D printing, Protolabs has capabilities for SLA, Polyjet, DMLS, SLS and MJF technologies. The company is a founding member of GE Additive‘s Manufacturing Partner Network (MPN) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Additive and Digital Advanced Production Technologies (ADAPT).

In January, Protolabs acquired online manufacturing platform 3D Hubs in a bid to create “the world’s most comprehensive” digital manufacturing offer for custom parts. The acquisition enabled Protolabs to gain access to 3D Hubs’ global network of 240 manufacturing partners, enabling broader capabilities, pricing, and lead time options.

PolyJet 3D printing uses a jetting process by which small droplets of liquid photopolymer, called voxels, are sprayed from multiple jets onto a build platform and cured in layers that form elastomeric parts. Docherty chose Protolabs’ Polyjet service to rapidly produce a prototype of the BHG.

The simple device was ergonomically designed to fit the contours of a hand and to be worn under traditional boxing hand wraps inside boxing gloves. Flexion grooves enable the initial shock of impacts to be dissipated and allow for micro movements of the striking fist. Future variations of the BHG will reportedly include a central implosion chamber that helps to disperse excess impact shock.

“PolyJet 3D printing technology provided outstanding detail, precision and surface smoothness, using a clear digital photopolymer material so that the implosion chamber is visible,” said Charlotte-Anne Smith, Application Engineer at Protolabs. “This is an exciting innovation for boxing and other martial arts and could prevent hundreds, if not thousands, of long-term injuries.”

The Boxing Hand Grenade. Photo via Protolabs.
The Boxing Hand Grenade. Photo via Protolabs.

A need for rapid prototyping

Docherty sought out Protolabs to develop and produce his BHG prototype in order to be the first to market with his idea. 

“From the first minute I met engineers from Protolabs, I knew they recognized the urgency, but, equally importantly, identified that a combination of 3D printing for the prototype and injection molding for production would give me a performance and price point that worked,” he explained. 

“Using the interactive quoting system also enabled me to understand the financial impact of different materials and allowed me to quickly produce a practical and affordable solution for my design.”

The BHG retails at £19.99 a pair, having undergone substantial testing from professional boxers and fight hand wrappers. According to Docherty, feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive” and he is now seeking to explore distribution agreements and potential retail deals.

“There is nothing else on the market like BHG and we’ve had requests from amateur and pro boxers who recognize the potential benefit of using the fist loaders for their bag and pad work,” he added. “All the feedback suggests it will soon be a common feature in the professional, amateur, and fitness boxing circuits.”

The Boxing Hand Grenade. Photo via Protolabs.
The Boxing Hand Grenade. Photo via Protolabs.

Improving safety in the sports goods industry

3D printing has been increasingly used within the sports goods sector in recent years, not only for increased mechanical performance of sports gear and for faster, more efficient production of sports equipment, but also to improve safety and comfort aspects in some sports. 

For instance, last year 3D printer manufacturer Carbon and sports goods manufacturer CCM Hockey 3D printed the world’s first NHL-certified hockey helmet liner, produced using Carbon’s proprietary Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology. The helmet is designed to provide better breathability, comfort, and protection, and can be customized to fit the athlete’s head using precise 3D scans.

Elsewhere, protective clothing specialist HEXR and leading PBF manufacturer EOS launched a new head scanning app that allows users to have a custom cycling helmet 3D printed without comprising product safety.

In terms of comfort, German sportswear brand Adidas unveiled its latest 3D printed footwear project, the Futurecraft STRUNG, which features the latest Futurecraft insoles produced by 3D printer manufacturer Carbon. To achieve optimal comfort and performance, and therefore minimize risk of injury, the Futurecraft sneakers have been created through blending athlete data, 3D printing and robotics into a unique combination that weaves each thread for optimal performance.

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Featured image shows the Boxing Hand Grenade is designed to improve safety and performance for boxers when hitting bags and pads. Photo via Protolabs.