3D Printed Handlebar Fails During Olympic Race

This years’ Olympics in Tokyo have seen a boom in 3D printed sporting goods employed over a range of competitions.

Cyclists in particular have been making use of AM technologies bringing a variety of AM products to the track ranging from 3D printed cranks to lugs to handlebars.

Given the increase in AM hardware in this years’ competition, it was perhaps inevitable that we see the first AM part fail during an Olympic event. And that is exactly what happened when the 3D printed handlebars of Australian cyclist Alex Porter snapped off during the men’s pursuit qualifiers on Monday 2nd August.

You can see what that looked like in the image below. Note the failed handlebars in the top left corner of the image.

This worries me about printed parts, all it takes is a little contamination to make a void or weak point even if it’s sintered metal the only real way to discover a defect like that is maybe x-rays? Often they are using generative design to guess where the weak points are and accommodate them, you can design something now where the shape will give a part 100% of the strength it needs to do what it’s designed for but the engineers have got to know everything that could happen to a part in its life so their data is good and I just don’t see how that’s possible when people are involved directly with the part.

I have made a lot of lightweight high load parts over the years. Carbon, and kevlar in epoxy resins. Bicycle frames from a client just trying to push the envelope, my own quest for the lightest sea kayak possible. (I gave up at 17 foot 22 inch beam, West Greenland design at 24 pounds)

What I learned from all of that when it is as light as you can manage, it is just strong enough to stand the forces involved. Extra ‘buffer’ is weight. The amount of force a top athlete can produce in an adrenaline soaked dash is easy to under estimate. There is a balance, 3d printed or not, it is the ragged edge of weight and strength. Things will break.

It looks like it mayn’t have been the printed bars in any case.

Heh well thats good ill bet it was a long time for them to hold their breath until they could confirm