Early last year, Farsoon Technologies, headquartered in Changsha, Hunan, China, signed an agreement with the Chinese Olympic Committee to develop next-generation ice skating blades. Farsoon responded with additively manufactured blades made of AlMgSc – customised for use in high-impact industries such as aerospace – in an effort to achieve lightweight, high-strength parts with highly customisable designs. As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics drew to a close, the blades from Farsoon seem to have proved themselves; the Chinese Short Track Speed Skating team came away with two gold medals in the 500 m race.
At the beginning of this project, a series of dynamic data relating to each skater were collected for analysing the stress on the blades and stanchions (the piece that attaches the blade to the shoe) during the starting, speeding, relays and turns. According to the data, Farsoon conducted a variety of topology optimisation tests on the blades in order to achieve streamlined geometry, with a significant weight reduction of over 20% compared with the traditional blade. The new designs were also said to meet the requirements for quick installation, positioning and processing of the blades.
To achieve the final results, the Farsoon R&D team tested various iterations, fine-tuning the processing parameters and studying the resultant mechanical properties (i.e, strength, toughness and fatigue). The company chose its large-format Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB) AM machine, the FS421M, to produce the blades.
The blades were said to show increased lateral and tangential strength during complex, rapid movements when compared to traditional aluminium alloy blades.
“Farsoon’s 3D printed skate blades showcases better flexibility in use due to the reduced weight, which offers smoother and better ice grip at cornering and sharp turns,” stated a member of the short track speed team. “During our regular tests under many extreme conditions, the optimised blades can successfully withstand the mechanical pressure generated by both intensive starting and fast sliding.”