French sports equipment company Athletics 3D turned to rapid prototyping for the design of one of its latest small bore rifles. The rifle, prototyped on a Zortrax M200, would go on to a gold medal-winning finish at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the hands of biathlete Martin Fourcade.
When it comes to professional and Olympic sports, design and quality of the equipment matters – a lot.
That is why Clément Jacquelin, the Youth Biathlon World Champion 2009, created Athletics 3D – Olympics & Fitting. With seven years study in engineering under his belt too, Jacquelin cpitalizes on what he knows best: designing professional biathlon rifles with the help of 3D printing technologies.
“We started Athletics 3D to share our expertise, and put everything we know about ins and outs of biathlon into our products,” he explains.
During biathlons, competitors must alternative between cross country skiing and target shooting. For the shooting element of the contest, the target range lies 160 feet. Five targets, ranging from 1.8- to 4.5-inches in diameter (depending on the stage of the event) are supposed to be hit. Unsurprisingly, both distance and fatigue are key considerations. This makes rifle ergonomics even more important.
Most biathlon rifles include a modular composition, which means that parts can be replaced with others to suit varying conditions. For Fourcade’s event-winning rifle, Athletics 3D’s custom stock is used.
Using Zortrax to 3D Print Rifles
After designing in CAD software, Jacquelin uses the Zortrax‘s proprietary slicer, Z-SUITE, to prepare the prototype rifles for printing on company’s M200 3D printer. Printed in Z-ABS material, the resulting parts are ready for inspection quickly.
“Zortrax Ecosystem did a great job prototyping the thing. We could get the feel right, the dimensions, the ergonomics”, Jacquelin adds.
He continues that 3D printing made all the difference to the final design, and that it has also reduced production costs of the devices.
Upon print completion, Jacquelin personally tests each test model. As a former world champion, he has the necessary qualifications to determine which features work best in a biathlon setting.
“We work with the world’s leading manufacturers specializing in high-end sports equipment. It was their job to build the stock with intended, end-use materials. But it all starts with extensive prototyping, and for prototyping we have been using Zortrax equipment since 2015”, he adds.
For Athletics 3D, the hard work has paid off. Martin Fourcade recently claimed gold in the men’s biathlon 12.5 km pursuit at the Winter Olympics 2018.