Bristol company helping former soldier realise Paralympic dream with world-first 3D-printed snowboard bindings

Manufacturing | South West | Sport | Technology

A Bristol company is helping a former British Army soldier realise his Paralympic dream after designing the world’s first 3D-printed snowboard bindings.

The Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), the independent, not-for-profit digital engineering specialists based at the Bristol & Bath Science Park, has created the bindings for double above the knee (DAK) amputee, Darren Swift (Swifty), who lost both his legs in an IED explosion in Northern Ireland.

Swifty hopes the new bindings, which are the first to be able to absorb shock and adjust to different users’ positions, will revolutionise para-snowboarding by enabling other DAK amputees to compete against each other, rather than more able-bodied para-athletes. Through this, he also hopes to encourage the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to create a new category for DAKs competitors.

Following the successful first test of the bindings at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Swifty will now embark on the qualification process for the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in China.

Swifty said: “For five years I’ve been competing on heavy bindings put together in a friend’s kitchen. They gave me permanent back pain and meant I was too slow to qualify for the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games. I wanted to create something that could open doors for me and other DAKs competitors. With CFMS’s help, we’ve developed something revolutionary and now we’re calling on the IPC to help DAKs compete equally.”

Bristol-based CFMS has developed and tested the bespoke bindings using a series of 3D modelling, additive manufacturing and complex high value design techniques. More than 500 digital engineering hours have been dedicated to the development of the prototype bindings, which have been 3D-printed using a super-strong material made from nylon and fibreglass.

Davide Bianchi, Head of Advanced Simulation at CFMS who led the project, commented: “When Darren first approached us with the idea for the bindings, we jumped at the chance to get involved. As experienced aerospace engineers, we knew we had the skills to design exactly what he needed. We’ve really pushed the limits of engineering to create the world’s first 3D-printed snowboard bindings so we’re really proud to see Darren on the slopes using this revolutionary new technology!”

CFMS has provided support for the project on a pro-bono basis and worked alongside Airbus to 3D-print the bindings.

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