Iterative Design Contributes to Success at the London Games

One of Japan’s top schools, the University of Tsukuba is renowned for its work in sports science and Olympic education, and for developing several of the country’s best athletes. In 2011, the university began research and development projects as part of the Team Nippon Multi-Support Project, a program initiated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to provide advanced support to Japanese Olympic athletes and teams.

The projects focus on developing sports equipment as well as training and conditioning methods. Already, results include gymnastic protective gear, shoes for javelin throwers, clothing for triathletes, masts for Olympic sailing yachts and a system to analyze badminton footwork. Most notably, the program developed the hilt, or handle, of the fencing foil for Japan’s 2012 London Olympics team.

Completed fencing swords and prototype hilts

Completed fencing swords and prototype hilts.

“Athletes are not engineers. So I needed to translate their words into several prototypes as quickly as I could. Without 3D printing, it would not have been possible.”

Osamu Takeda, University of Tsukuba