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3D BODY SCANNING: THE MAKING OF VIRTUAL NAIRO
As Movistar Team’s technical clothing sponsor, we're constantly looking at innovative new techniques and technologies to ensure that the team have the best fitting and most aerodynamic race kits and skinsuits that we can make at our production facility here in Livingston, Scotland.
The squad's big pre-season training camp, held in Pamplona in late November, is the only time that the entire group of riders - old and new – meet together in one place to work and make plans for the following season, so an Endura team travelled to the camp in northern Spain to carry out the regular fit session on the riders and also take the opportunity to make detailed scans of all 27 riders using a new mobile 3D laser scanner. Although it resembles the sort of temporary changing room put up on beaches in Victorian times, the cutting edge set-up allows Endura to produce a 3D, 360° model of the riders in standing, and more importantly, riding positions which is accurate to +/- 2mm.
Jim McFarlane, Managing Director of Endura, was on hand in Pamplona and explained, “It's the first time we've used laser scanning with the team. It gives us a virtual form of each of the riders that we can work with and access throughout the season, because you have to remember that, once the season starts, it can be quite hard to get time with the riders.”
“Our software maps the 2D patterns that we cut from the fabric, and it virtually stitches it over a 3D avatar. It shows us tension maps across the body, using specific fabrics with known stretch characteristics. It looks like a heat map, but it shows the amount of stretch across the body, and it means that we can essentially refine each of the rider's garments to fit them more accurately."
Endura developed their scanning protocol with time-trial ace Alex Dowsett, several weeks before the big team gathering, “Scanning is the solution to two problems. The first is that you can't necessarily get access to take riders physically to a wind tunnel. The second is that they fatigue when they are there, and aero testing is all about consistency and repeatability, so the idea was, we scan Alex, we then take his 3D avatar or 'scanatar,' as we call it, and use that to 3D-print a mannequin of Alex that we can then build into it a physical working model with adjustable limbs and so on, so that we can do much more extended periods of wind tunnel aero testing, knowing that that is the form of Alex's shape.”
“It's all about us being able to take an accurate 3D body shape of him, in a riding position, for aero purposes, and we do an awful lot of work, specifically with Simon Smart at Drag2Zero's facility at the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 wind tunnel at Silverstone, for aerodynamic development for the team. It's been one of the major processes that we've been involved in, and of course that the team's very encouraging. It's one of the few places that we can make a really noticeable performance difference to the team that's measured in seconds.”
With a total of 54km of individual time trials in the 2016 Tour de France, the tiniest detail could make all the difference, which is why Endura's input doesn't stop with the design and manufacture of the skinsuits.
“I'm usually out at the Grand Tours in the day before the major time trials, making sure not just that everything fits correctly, but they know how to put the stuff on correctly, because we have things with that sort of, you know, progressive texturing and so on. You have to make sure that all the sleeves are lined up the right way, and all that sort of stuff, so it's that sort of detail, and then I'll be watching the race with great interest and great excitement... On time trial day, we'll play an important part.”
The last rider to be scanned was Movistar Team's Tour de France contender, Nairo Quintana, for whom Jim and colleagues had a surprise in store.
“This is the first time Nairo's been scanned. The first part of the process gave us his key measurements, just like with the other riders, so that was in a standing position. But then we put him on a bike. It was his road bike, OK, but we wanted to introduce Nairo to the idea of him being scanned on a bike, because at some point in the future, and hopefully substantially before the 2016 Tour, we will take him to Germany and scan him on his time trial bike.”
“We get to repeat the process that we did with Alex, but on Nairo, so that we can refine his clothing. So that's the plan: to have both a virtual Nairo, and a physical carbon-fibre Nairo, and work with those two together, and hopefully make him faster on time-trial day at the Tour de France.”