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BMW Group's 3D printed spike plates boost speed for the German bobsleigh national team.

Located in Munich. In bobsleigh, a key factor to success is the balance between start time, equipment, and performance on the steering pulley. When initiating movement, the athletic abilities of the athletes are crucial, and similar to track and field, the choice of footwear plays a role in achieving optimal acceleration. However, there is a wide variety of spiked shoes designed for various disciplines and personal preferences in high-performance sports on the tartan track, but similar products for the ice channel have been missing for a long time.

Being the technology partner of the German Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton Federation (BSD), BMW Group is dedicated to making a difference by utilizing 3D printing techniques from automotive development and manufacturing, showcasing the ideal method and expertise needed to carry out the project.

Structured rows of nails are permanently affixed to the toe section of traditional bobsleigh shoes; these nails cannot be interchanged or repositioned, so once they wear out, the shoe must be discarded. The collaboration between BMW and the BSD involves a solution based on track and field shoes. Threads for screw spikes are utilized to attach spike plates, allowing the spike nails to be distributed without restriction. This offers multiple benefits. A wide variety of shoe styles are available for athletes to choose from, allowing them to find a shoe that meets their specific requirements. The choice of material and plate geometry, along with the positioning of the spike nails, can be adjusted to modify the stiffness and enhance power transfer to the ice. Considering the unique running styles and paths associated with different positions in a 4-man bobsleigh, this leads to superior acceleration compared to regular spikes.

This involves designing and manufacturing custom spike plates for each athlete, a task that the BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Centre is well-versed in. Plastics and metals are utilized to manufacture a wide variety of components without the requirement for tools or moulds. Claudia Rackl from BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Projects & Qualification mentioned that they have been utilizing 3D printing for creating components for prototypes, customised one-offs, and series production for over 30 years. "The primary benefits of 3D printing include time and cost efficiency, along with great flexibility." This enables us to rapidly produce, test, and effectively optimize various versions."

BMW Group engineers have applied their automotive engineering expertise directly to bobsleigh. The spike plates' geometry is designed with software and then matched to the topography of each shoe using data from a 3D scanner. The spike plates are manufactured using a laser welding process that fuses the metal powder layer by layer.

Several alloys and geometric shapes are currently undergoing testing and refinement until the best outcome is achieved – similar to the process in automotive research and development. After establishing the necessary parameters, the software can adjust the spike plate design to fit various shoe types, sizes, and attachment points on the sole automatically. Special spike plates can be customized to meet the specific needs of athletes or adapt to various weather and ice conditions.

"We conducted tests on the spike plates during the World Cup and garnered significant praise from the athletes," shared René Spies, the bobsleigh head coach. However, some adjustments are still required, but we anticipate having the ideal shoes for competition by the 2026 Olympic Winter Games at the latest.

This would set up the perfect conditions for the initial phase on the path to success, the best starting time.


Source: https://www.press.bmwgroup.com/global/article/detail/T0439879EN/customised-spike-plates-from-bmw-group-3d-printing-accelerate-the-german-bobsleigh-national-team

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