3-D printed golf grips change the game

3-D printed golf grips change the game

A Virginia Tech student engineering team has created a customized 3-D printed golf grip that uniquely conforms to individual golfer’s hands to guide correct placement each time they pick up a club.

To create this game-changing golf grip, the team made a clay mold of hands in the correct grip position, scanned the mold, and converted the image to a 3-D CAD model before printing. The result is a grip that can be slipped onto golf clubs and used as a non-tournament aid for players to help build muscle memory and achieve the desired consistent, correct grip without the need for a professional trainer.

“We looked through the available literature on what people had printed before and narrowed our choice of potential materials down to those with chemical similarities to what had been printed previously,” said Cam Chatham, macromolecular science and engineering doctoral student. “The thermoplastic polyurethane that we chose had never been printed before, so we had to perform a number of thermal and degradation analyses to make sure it would work.”

Thermoplastic polyurethane has been used for years to make automotive parts and other common tools, including medical devices. By converting the product into a filament for printing, the students were able to use customized structural infill patterns to tailor the stiffness of the grip to the golfer’s individual preference.

Chris Williams, the John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow of Mechanical Engineering, instructs the additive manufacturing course that inspired this team-based final project, challenging students to design a product that could be made using additive manufacturing.

Through funding from ZinnStarter and the course challenge as motivation, Virginia Tech students designed the printable, flexible product to improve mobility for users. The ZinnStarter accelerator program was created by Ray Zinn, the longest-serving CEO in Silicon Valley and the founder of Micrel Semiconductors, in partnership with Virginia Tech’s Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The program awards funding to college students pursuing innovative business ventures.

The Virginia Tech students garnered recognition with their design when they were awarded first place in the 2017 Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Digital Manufacturing Challenge.

“From an educational standpoint, it was an excellent opportunity to correlate a class project with a competition,” said Williams, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “From a research standpoint, this is the next generation. It’s not every day students come into class and say, ‘we’ve printed a completely a new product and we’ve done it using a material that’s never been printed before.’ Because there were team members with polymer science and engineering backgrounds, they were able to modify an existing material to make something new.”

The winning team:

  • Camden Chatham, doctoral macromolecular science and engineering student, co-advised by Williams and Tim Long, professor of chemistry in the College of Science
  • Jacob Fallon, doctoral macromolecular science and engineering student, advised by Michael Bortner, assistant professor of chemical engineering
  • Eric Gilmer, doctoral chemical engineering student, advised by Bortner
  • Andy Cohen, undergraduate mechanical engineering student