February - June 2012

'Designed to win' is an exploration of materials, technologies and processes to design specific equipment that could potentially enhance sprinting performance. Scientific investigations have shown that tuning the mechanical properties of a sprint shoe to the physical abilities of an athlete can improve performance by up to 3.5%, when an improvement of 0.7% can already make a significant difference in a sprinter's chance of winning a particular race.Wearing custom-made shoes has thus a significant impact on performance, but it is still a privilege exclusively reserved to world class elite athletes. The current mass-manufacturing process only allows to produce shoes with standard mechanical properties and geometries. Using the opportunities offered by additive manufacturing and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) in particular, a project by Royal College of Art student Luc Fusaro opens up the possibility of whole new generation of athlete-specific footwear, proposing new models of production and consumption of sport equipment.

Fusaro's research is based on earlier research by Dr Daniel Toon from Loughborough University's Sports Technology and Additive Manufacturing Research Group that determined that an athlete's performance could be optimised by tuning the mechanical properties of sprint footwear sole units using the selective laser sintering process. Fusaro's approach utilises a similar approach using bespoke manufacturing processes. Following 3D scanning of the athlete's feet, a 'one shot' full sprint shoe is produced, complete with traction elements and shoelace features, and is the very first sprint shoe fully made with additive manufacturing. The SLS process, known for being ideal for a constantly changing design process, is also one of the strongest in the range of additive manufacturing.

Fusaro continues to fine-tune the shoe: The upper is still too stiff to offer optimum speed. More flexibility and comfort needs to be added to the shoe, using a combination of different material or additive manufacturing processes that can offer different flexibilities in the same product. Given the complete reliance on technology in creating the shoe, the project showcases the unlimited potential of 3D technologies and additive manufacturing among other sports and footwear industry in general, as well as offering an insight into the future of sprinting footwear.

This project has been supported by the James Dyson Foundation, EOS company and Jaymart.

Acknowledgements: Dr Toon, Loughborough University Sport Technology who developed methodologies for the design, production, testing, analysis and customisation of Additive Manufactured sole units for sprint footwear.

Ⓒ 2011 Luc Fusaro

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