This article is based on two original Artec case studies: Vorteq uses Artec Leo to engineer the ultrafast WX-R racing bike to life and Artec Leo helps Vorteq create the world’s fastest cycling skinsuits
In high-performance cycling, speed is everything. With up to 90% of a cyclist’s energy output being spent to overcome air resistance, reducing drag is paramount. As the rider’s body is responsible for roughly 80% of the drag and the bike for the remaining 20%, sports-focused R&D company Vorteq explored new ways of optimizing these two pieces.
3D scanning technology enabled them to create more aerodynamic bikes and skinsuits that would allow cyclists to ride even faster.
A skinsuit should be comfortable, lightweight, breathable, and made specifically for the athlete wearing it. Otherwise, they’re bound to fit improperly and wrinkle up, and in the world of aerodynamics, every wrinkle adds to performance-killing drag.
Additionally, many fabrics “open up” when overstretched, introducing greater drag across their surfaces, so fabrics and seams should be chosen carefully with each skinsuit designed and manufactured to have the exact amount of fabric tension for that particular rider’s anatomy. Such a customized fit simply isn’t possible with an off-the-shelf skinsuit.
Vorteq’s new approach is based on scanning a rider and designing a perfect-fitting skinsuit from the data. They sought advice from Central Scanning, specialists in all aspects of 3D scanning, who recommended the Artec Leo, a handheld 3D scanner with a built-in touchscreen on their recommendation. Vorteq would scan a cyclist’s entire body with the Leo and process the data in Artec Studio and Geomagic Wrap.
To engineer their maximum performance skinsuits, Vorteq has invested over $500,000 in R&D and tested more than 45,000 different material, tension, and speed combinations in the specialized wind tunnels at Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub (SSEH). They also leverage the expertise of its parent company, TotalSim, who has been working closely with professional cyclists, Olympic cycling teams, Tour de France riders, and other top cyclists over the past 10 years. Best of all, the skinsuits are available to serious riders of all levels of experience – not just the pros.
Metrology Engineer Sam Quilter 3D scans a rider with Artec Leo
The workflow for creating the skinsuit starts in the wind tunnel, where a rider hops on their bike. Next, Vorteq scan the rider in just five to six minutes with the Artec Leo in high-resolution color 3D, and then they capture their shoe, on all sides. In ten minutes, Vorteq have everything they need to design an anatomically accurate, fast-as-a-bullet skinsuit.
Vorteq metrology engineer Sam Quilter summarized the design process, “From the time an athlete walks in the door and we start scanning with Leo, then using Artec Studio to post-process the scans, followed by 3D modeling work in Geomagic Wrap, and finally exporting the 3D model for use in making a skinsuit, we are looking at about 2 hours total, which absolutely wasn’t possible in the past, not even close.”
The body scans give Vorteq the exact physical data they need. This is a crucial difference to taking measurements manually. "If you’re taking physical measurements and then entering them into a CAD system, or a computational draping system like ours, something is going to be lost in the transition. And that something can easily result in imprecise dimensions being used to create a skinsuit, which is entirely unacceptable to us,” Quilter explained.
3D scanning a rider in the Sports Performance Wind Tunnel at SSEH
After scanning, the data is read in Artec Studio, double-check everything visually, and process it to remove unwanted bits and then exports it as an STL file for use in Geomagic Wrap.
“In Geomagic Wrap, I use the Decimate tool to get the triangle count down further, and if I’m getting rid of any wrinkles, which shouldn’t be in the scan, but on a very rare occasion might be, I use the Relax command, and then I move on to the Smooth commands, which let me cut out any imperfections, because sometimes athletes twitch their fingers during the scanning, and we need to fix that. After we’ve done all we need to do, we export it as an OBJ file for use in our computational draping software,” Quilter said.
In addition to the skinsuits, the sports R&D company used 3D scanning to digitally capture a range of professional racing bikes in high-resolution 3D to create an extremely aerodynamic racing bike.
These precise 3D models of the bikes, featuring the exact geometries of the frames and components, were used for cutting-edge CFD analysis and wind tunnel testing and research, including analyzing the kinesiological riding habits of the cyclists. Everything was brought together to create the ultimate aero track bike, the Vorteq WX-R.
With the Artec Leo, Vorteq were able to entirely capture a professional racing bike in under one minute. “We compared in our CFD system to see what the drag differences were, followed by making structural adjustments and modifications to the 3D models to enhance performance,” Quilter explained. “That way, we were able to extract the best from multiple bikes and bring them together into one design, which we moved forward with.”
The Vorteq WX-R track bike (image courtesy of Vorteq)
Quilter continued, “At the same time, while we were going through the design process, we analyzed the riders of these bikes in the wind tunnel at Silverstone (SSEH), to understand exactly how they put down power and how this influences the entire bike.”
Similarly to the bodysuits, the workflow for creating the bike starts with editing data in Artec Studio and then exporting it as an OBJ file into Geomagic Wrap to carry out additional design steps before sending the 3D model to the CFD system.
Following the research and development phase, Vorteq partnered with British bike manufacturer Worx, a company that has made their own track bikes in the past, but nothing like the Vorteq WX-R.
Azizulhasni Awang sprinting to victory on a Vorteq WX-R at the 2020 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin (photo courtesy of Vorteq)
In addition to the skinsuits and track bike, Vorteq offers an array of cycling-related 3D scanning services. “Our mission is to help serious athletes, many of whom are already at the top of their game or near, find those many ‘tiny’ gains that when you add them all together, can really give an athlete the kind of edge that helps them surge over the top and on to victory,” Quilter said.