ShellBell helps train soldiers and athletes of tomorrow

Client: Think Refine

Project name: ShellBell helps train soldiers and athletes of tomorrow

Summary: As part of endurance training exercises, soldiers are required to carry cumbersome artillery shells without dropping them.

Ricoh 3D worked with Think Refine to create a functional prototype of a specialist weight-training device, which offers improved ergonomics to help soldiers build up the balance and specific set of muscles required to take on the challenge of an artillery shell – reducing the likelihood of droppage and injury.

The product is also aimed at CrossFit gyms looking to expand their range of personal training equipment.

3D printing was used for the prototype of the product as it offered the required strength quickly and at a competitive price.

The problem

Artillery shells are not only heavy – weighing in at least 15kg – they are also notoriously difficult to handle.

Eventually, soldiers will be required to carry a shell through gruelling obstacle courses. Think Refine, a specialist design-for-additive-manufacture consultancy, created the ShellBell training aid to help soldiers practice the challenge with the benefit of additional handle and finger grips.

Think Refine needed a functional prototype for user testing– without the financial outlay of expensive tooling and moulds. The prototype had to be large enough to replicate an artillery shell and strong enough to be filled with 15kg of ironsand.

The solution

Multi Jet Fusion is one of the most cost-effective technologies for one-offs and, in this case, the mechanical properties of PA12 were almost identical to the final moulded material. Few other processes would be able to produce a part of the same size and strength, at the same price.

Working alongside Think Refine, the team at Ricoh 3D was able to tweak and optimise the design so that the grips were more ergonomic and robust.

The prototype product was easily strong enough to be filled with the ironsand, and was manufactured, quality assured and shipped within five working days thanks to the fast turnaround only achievable with additive manufacturing.

The project will include 10-20 prototype iterations by the time the ShellBell is ready for full testing and validation with soldiers and CrossFit enthusiasts

Grant Riley, Design Director at Think Refine, said: “Ricoh’s quick response to technical questions and instant order system made them the natural choice for this project. Their team recommended PA12 as the best choice for ShellBell prototyping and the inherent grey colour proved very useful for analysing surfaces, without the need for post processing. We’re excited to gather user feedback and show these models to potential buyers, before moving into tooling and moulding.”