Freeform helps make wheelchair racing gear that fits like a glove

Marta MatvijevFebruary 24, 20235 minute read

The top performers in any walk of life understand the importance of details. Spanish Paralympic star, Jordi Madera, is no stranger to this. Among the numerous details to which he attributes his wheelchair racing success are bespoke gloves. It should come as no surprise that he wanted to find an easy way to replicate them. 

Many wheelchair racers, from novices to seasoned pros, wear padded gloves to protect their hands from shock while pushing wheels – and Madera is no different. He originally wore a pair he made himself, from resin. 

But in every other aspect, Madera stands out. He’s ranked in the top ten athletes in the world in the wheelchair racing marathon and half marathon. He holds the Spanish wheelchair record in the half marathon, 800 and 10,000 meters. He’s the national champion in road cycling, para-triathlon and track athletics in 200, 400, 800, 1,500 and 5,000 meters. And he won many first places in international competitions too, including in Switzerland and the UK. Jordi Madera uses personalised glovesJordi Madera competing in the 2022 Barcelona marathon

 On this path to success, his custom gloves proved to be reliable and effective for a number of years, but they were gradually wearing out. Madera wanted to capture their design before they completely came apart so that he could create a replica. 3D printing specialist AsorCAD had the expertise and tools to help him out. 

The Spain-based company used 3D scanning to capture the custom design of the original gloves. The scan data was processed in Geomagic Freeform Plus to create a printable design. After a few iterations and tests in real-life conditions, AsorCAD and Madera landed on a perfectly-fitting model. 

To achieve the desired result, Madera first needed to define the exact features he was looking for in the new gloves. Weight was foremost in his mind. Every gram counts when competing against the best, so the gloves should be as light as possible. Sturdiness is paramount as wheelchair gloves are usually in contact with wheels 60 to 70 times a minute. They also need to be waterproof and withstand changes in temperature. Finally, it was important that the gloves were easy to manufacture so that a worn pair could be quickly replaced. 

 Once AsorCAD had a clear understanding of Madera’s wishes, they turned their attention to the design and manufacture. Their 3D scanning workflow consisted of these simple steps:

1. 3D scanning of the original gloves. AsorCAD’s team scanned Madera's gloves with a HandySCAN Black Elite 3D scanner at a resolution of 0.3mm. It took them just 50 minutes to scan and process the image.

3D scan of personalised racing gloveScanning the wheelchair racer’s original glove

2. Capturing an image of the interior. One important part of the gloves remained inaccessible to the scanner in the first step, and that’s the inside. Because this area comes into direct contact with Madera’s hand, it’s crucial to get a perfect design. 

AscorCAD had to introduce a few additional steps to get a scan of this area. Firstly, using scan software, they divided the scan initially captured into sections. AsorCAD printed these sections with a Makerbot Method X with FDM technology at a resolution of 0.2mm and a thickness of 0.8mm in PLA material. Each section required 12 hours to print.

The team then added plasticine to the inner side of the printed sections with the intent of getting an impression of Madera’s hand. The Paralympian put on the gloves, and, by pressing on the plasticine, he created a negative of his hands.

The impression on the plasticine was scanned with the GO!Scan Spark structured light technology 3D scanner at 0.3mm precision. The sectioned glove was also scanned with the athlete's hand in the plasticine to draw the rest of the internal wall of the glove. Scanning and processing took 40 minutes.

3. Prototyping. The shapes and irregularities of the two scans were smoothed in Geomagic Freeform Plus. The first prototype was printed using the same printer and materials as the first scan, and it was finished in 15 hours.

The athlete tested the fit in training, under real-life conditions. He reported some discomfort in the distal area of his finger, so the design was altered.

The AsorCAD team did another two iterations of the gloves, experimenting with the design until they struck the balance between comfort and functionality. In Geomagic Freeform Plus, they modified the distal area, refined the external appearance, and tried adding straps to the original design to fasten the gloves to the hands.

The third prototype incorporated all of these design changes, as well as more thickness in the area that is in contact with the wheel. It emerged, however, that the additional material in tandem with the straps made the gloves too heavy. To reduce the excess weight, the straps were discarded, which gave Madera the ideal result.

Final glovesThe final version of the personalized 3D printed gloves

Once the external and internal designs were validated, the team printed the final product with SLS technology on a sPro230 with a resolution of 100-120µm and precision of 0.2mm. The time necessary for the manufacture of each glove was just 21 hours.

This case study is based on an article provided by AsorCAD. You can read the original story on AsorCAD’s website

3D scanning CTA


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