An Eden Prairie company is doing its part to help Team USA at the Beijing Olympics. Stratasys, which manufactures 3D printers and production systems, partnered with USA Luge to help create the sleds the athletes use in competition.
Pat Carey, senior vice president of strategic growth for Stratasys, said he met representatives from USA Luge at a manufacturing trade show back in 2017 and struck up a partnership to create the sled molds for luge. That partnership was first on global display at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where the U.S. took home a silver medal in men’s singles, courtesy of Chris Mazdzer.
With the help of Stratasys, USA Luge has been able to dramatically reduce the time it takes to produce their luge sleds. In the past, the sleds made for luge used traditional fiberglass lay-up tooling, took months to produce and were not easily customizable. “They’d make one and hoped it worked,” Carey explained.
Using Stratasys technology, a sled mold can now be 3-D printed using thermoplastics in just one day, and the entire sled can be finished in weeks.
“For something highly competitive, like luge, being able to iterate for competitive advantage could make all the difference,” said Carey.
With the manufacturing time slashed and more design freedom, Stratasys can help USA Luge test different sled designs and make adjustments to accommodate each athlete’s unique physical characteristics.
According to a Stratasys press release, “Luge design plays a critical role in race outcomes where the difference between winning and losing is measured in thousandths of a second.”
Luge events at the Beijing Olympics wrapped up on Thursday, Feb. 10. Germany dominated the competition with four gold medals and two silver, while Austria won two silver medals and a bronze. Italy, Latvia and the Russian Olympic Committee had one bronze each.
While USA Luge did not medal in this year’s Olympics, Carey is hopeful that Stratasys’s partnership with the team will endure. “We’ll keep trying,” he said.
Carey’s also got an eye on other potential Olympic partnerships. “Of course, we’re watching this year, we’re looking at what else we can do.
“We’re passionate about it.”
Innovation at work
In the meantime, Stratasys continues to innovate with its 3D printing capabilities. On Monday, Stratasys announced the donation of Stratasys J750 Digital Anatomy 3D printers, as well as MakerBot METHOD X and MakerBot SKETCH 3D printers to the University of Minnesota Visible Heart Laboratories. The printers “mimic the actual feel, responsiveness, and biomechanics of human anatomy” and are used in education, research and product development conducted in the Visible Heart Laboratories.
Stratasys has also partnered with revived British car maker Radford to print more than 500 parts for its first limited-edition Lotus Type 62 2, a reimagined version of the 1969 Lotus Type 62 racer. A two-hour documentary exploring the luxury car maker’s return to the market debuted on Discovery+ late last month.