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Metal AM Bobsleigh Shoe Spike Plates from BMW Group

A rule of thumb in bobsleigh is that success is one-third start time, one-third equipment, and one-third performance on the steering pulley. When pushing off, it is the athletic prowess of the athletes that is key, but as in track and field, footwear also affects being able to generate maximum acceleration. Yet, while there are many different types of spiked shoes tailored to the requirements of different disciplines and personal preferences available for high-performance sport on the tartan track, comparable products for the ice channel have long been lacking.

As technology partner of the German Bobsleigh, Luge, and Skeleton Federation (BSD), BMW Group is committed to changing this—and using metal additive manufacturing processes from automotive development and manufacturing, they also have the perfect method and the required expertise to implement the project.

Rows of nails are permanently attached to the toe area of the soles of conventional bobsleigh shoes. Once the nails wear out, the shoe is obsolete. The solution that BMW and the BSD are working on is based on track and field shoes, for which threads for screw spikes are used to attach spike plates on which the spike nails can largely be distributed without restriction. This combines several advantages. There is a large selection of shoe styles, so athletes can use a shoe that suits their individual needs. The material and geometry of the plate, as well as the placement of the spike nails, can be used to vary the rigidity and, above all, the power transmission to the ice. With respect to individual running styles as well as the different running paths that the various positions entail, especially in a 4-man bobsleigh, this ensures better acceleration than standard spikes could ever make possible.

“We have been using 3D printing to make components for prototypes, customized one-offs, as well as for series production for more than 30 years,” said Claudia Rackl, BMW Group Additive Manufacturing Projects & Qualification. “The major advantages of 3D printing are the time and cost savings as well as a high degree of flexibility. This allows us to quickly manufacture, test and efficiently optimize different variants.”

BMW Group engineers have transferred this expertise from automotive engineering directly to bobsleigh. The geometry of the spike plates is developed using software and automatically aligned with the topography of the individual shoes, which was recorded by a 3D scanner. The spike plates are then printed by a laser welding the corresponding metal powder together layer by layer.

“We tested the spike plates in the World Cup and received a lot of positive feedback from the athletes,” said bobsleigh head coach René Spies. “Nevertheless, a few tweaks are still necessary here and there, but we expect to have the perfect shoes to compete in by the 2026 Olympic Winter Games at the latest.”

 

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