Artec Leo helps Vorteq create the world’s fastest cycling skinsuits

Product: Artec Leo
Industry: Design and Art

In high-performance cycling, speed is everything. And even if you’re racing on an indoor track with controlled conditions, you’re going to be battling wind resistance and drag every turn of the pedals. With up to 90% of a cyclist’s energy output being spent to overcome air resistance, reducing drag is paramount. In terms of professional riders and serious hobbyists, there’s comparatively little to be gained from spending what could easily be ten thousand dollars and up on a more aerodynamic bike. With the rider’s body being responsible for roughly 80% of the drag, and their bike the remaining 20%, it makes far more sense to focus on the rider, their biomechanics in various riding positions, their training, and especially, their clothing.

Vorteq is making use of a full-sized, sports-dedicated wind tunnel, a custom fabric wind tunnel, and the latest in 3D scanning technology to create custom skinsuits for cyclists. A skinsuit is essentially the most aerodynamic piece of clothing a rider can wear, reducing their level of drag down below that of being naked. A quality skinsuit should also 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. As well, many fabrics “open up” when overstretched, introducing greater drag across their surfaces, so fabrics and seams should be chosen carefully for specific areas of the body, with each skinsuit designed and manufactured to have the exact amount of fabric tension for that particular rider’s anatomy, to achieve optimum airflow and the least wind resistance. Considering how body shapes and sizes of cyclists can differ so dramatically, such a customized fit simply isn’t possible with an off-the-shelf, small-medium-large type of skinsuit.

Vorteq’s parent company, TotalSim, has deep experience from working closely with professional cyclists, Olympic cycling teams, Tour de France riders, and other top cyclists over the past 10 years. This has made it possible for Vorteq to create what they believe to be the fastest skinsuits available today. To engineer their skinsuits beyond what was ever possible in the past, Vorteq has invested in excess of $500,000 in R&D, while testing more than 45,000 different material, tension, and speed combinations in the specialized wind tunnels at Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub (SSEH). The end result is every athlete receives their own skinsuit, created with custom patterns and fabrics, each designed for maximum performance.

Despite Vorteq’s lengthy work exclusively with Olympic teams and other elite athletes, as of January 1st, 2020, their custom skinsuits are available to serious riders of all levels of experience. This means that any cyclist, not just the pros, now has the chance to get a custom Vorteq skinsuit, and when they’re sprinting towards the finish line, they’ll be wearing the same level of skinsuit technology as if they were one of Vorteq’s Olympic clients.

To create these custom skinsuits, the use of a 3D scanner is a crucial element for digitally capturing a rider’s exact anatomy, and in the hours that follow those few minutes of scanning, all the sizes, patterns, and types of fabric will be meticulously selected in the computational draping system and then assembled by Vorteq’s skinsuit team.

In the past, TotalSim was using an arm-based scanner for scanning race cars, bicycles, and other objects, but when it came to using the scanner for capturing people, they ran into significant difficulties and weren’t able to proceed any further with their old technology.

That’s when Vorteq turned to Artec Ambassador Central Scanning, specialists in all aspects of 3D scanning. During an onsite visit and consultation, the experts at Central Scanning recommended the Artec Leo, a revolutionary handheld 3D scanner with a built-in touchscreen and up to 80 fps capture rate, as well as being an entirely cable-free scanner that excels at capturing medium-sized objects such as people in mere minutes. TotalSim had used two Artec scanners in the past for their CFD and metrology work, Artec Eva and Artec Spider, so they were already familiar with Artec’s high level of scanning technology.

When Sam Quilter and his colleagues at Vorteq saw how fast and accurately Leo captured the exact anatomy of a cyclist, they knew they had found the right tool for the job. In the hours after taking delivery of their new Leo, they began creating their digital capture workflow, which Quilter described as follows:

“The rider comes into the wind tunnel with their bike, mounts it in place on the platform, hops on, and in just 5 to 6 minutes with Leo, I capture the rider in two positions in precise, high-resolution color 3D. And then I need just another minute to capture their shoe, on all sides,” Quilter said. “Basically this means that in ten minutes I can be totally done with that rider and they can go elsewhere. I’ve got everything I need to design an anatomically-accurate, fast-as-a-bullet Vorteq skinsuit. No chance of a rescan needed. Not once.”

Quilter continued, “We usually scan cyclists in their underwear, to get as much detail of the body as possible, so that when we design the skinsuits, they lay down perfectly over that cyclist’s anatomy in a way that just isn’t attainable if we’re designing from a scan that includes some overlying fabric blocking exact anatomical structures from view.”

“When we’re making our skinsuits, we’re working directly from the Leo scans, so it’s not measurements we’re taking, it’s the exact physical data that’s being used, and the difference is crucial. Because 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. Even one tiny mismeasurement could result in a wrinkle here or there, or fabric being overstretched. So, for us, how Leo gives us the exact physical data of the athlete to work with makes all the difference.

Quilter summarized the 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. And as far as the total production time for a skinsuit that’s ready to race, currently we’re at 2 days, but that gap is narrowing, and we’re shooting for a 24-hour turnaround time, which we’re sure to hit before too long.”

Quilter explained his post-processing workflow in Artec Studio, “Leo makes it easy for me. Not many steps are needed in Artec Studio at all. I basically read the Leo data in, double-check everything visually, then use the Eraser tool for a few clicks to remove any occasional, unwanted bits. I normally keep the bike in the scan, since it’s a great reference point to get XYZ positioning as well as the angle, and then I go into Global Registration, where I just use the default settings because they work brilliantly as is. Normally I don’t need to do Outlier Removal, because the data is already clean enough for a person. Then I do a Smooth Fusion, and after a few other minor changes, I export 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.

Vorteq’s newest offering is that of using their Leo to create scans for 3D printing anatomically-precise mannequins of athletes. These mannequins are then used to create new skinsuits for the athletes without them having to visit the Vorteq office. Let’s say, for example, that a cyclist is training on the other side of the world and needs a skinsuit specifically for an upcoming long-distance time trial that’s mostly on the flats but also includes a long downhill phase. By having a 3D mannequin of the athlete, Vorteq can create a custom skinsuit for them, test multiple fabrics and patterns in its wind tunnels, and craft the new skinsuit in the hours that follow, then express deliver it to them on the other side of the world, or anywhere. At present, the custom mannequin process takes just under 2 days, but that number is decreasing with each passing week. The target turnaround time is 24 hours from 3D scan to completion for creating a new 3D-printed mannequin.

Quilter spoke about the why behind 3D-printed mannequins, “A full-sized mannequin lets us do wind tunnel tests on fabrics in isolation on just an arm, for example, to see how various fabrics and patterns affect drag reduction. That’s where the marginal gains really add up. Because with a live rider in the wind tunnel, there’s going to be the wiggle factor to deal with, where the rider is moving around, even ever so slightly, and that’s going to affect results. With a live rider, you can never have the exact measurement possible with a perfectly still mannequin, where the only factor that’s changed is the fabric that’s been put on.”

“Mannequins don’t get tired, and they’re always perfectly still, which allows us to know exactly what kinds of changes our fabrics and designs are causing in terms of drag and performance.”

TotalSim also provides biomechanical consultation and training for cyclists and teams, advising athletes on which body positions, equipment adjustments, riding habits, and clothing will either enhance or diminish their power, drag, endurance, and more.

“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.

In addition to Vorteq’s skinsuits and TotalSim’s biomechanical consulting and training services, they also provide scanning services to a range of clients, including cycling teams. Their Leo has played a pivotal role in their ability to 3D scan anywhere their projects lead them, whether in-house, around the UK, or overseas.

As Quilter explained, “In contrast to our previous scanners, Leo gives us that flexibility to just pick up and go virtually anywhere in the world to do scanning, without requiring extra hardware, just the Leo itself. This kind of freedom is tremendous when you’re going offsite to random locations that aren’t exactly laboratories in regards to their conditions.”

How to boost the performance of an F3 race car with Artec Leo

Product: Artec Leo
Industry: Automotive and Transportation

A race car, such as the Dallara F399/01, is the product of decades of engineering advancements. Motors, frames, and materials have all progressed tremendously in order to comply with the technical regulations of motorsports while ramping up performance. In fact, the remarkable breakthroughs already made over the years in race car engineering make it appear as if there’s not much room left for further improvement. At least not without investing a fair amount of financial resources and time. Considering this, what options are possible if someone wants to gain a technical edge over the competition? John Hughes, a postgraduate engineering student at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), offered up a simple answer: Aerodynamics.

“Every little detail, every little gain you get, is better than nothing. At the moment, we have managed to gain roughly 10 miles an hour in straight line speed, compared to where we started off with the car. Just through aerodynamic development.”

John has been working on the Dallara’s front wing as part of his master’s degree project with another aerodynamics student together with the two owners of the car. Their objective is to get better performance out of the vehicle, currently running in the British Sprint Championship, a prestigious 16 events per season championship held at venues across the United Kingdom. Between events, John and his team have small windows of time for working on the car at the University motor shop, located right next to Swansea’s harbor.

For a while, the team used manual measuring tools to obtain the dimensions of the F3, but the results lacked precision in addition to being time-consuming. They naturally came to the conclusion that they needed a reliable way to get better measurements faster. This is where the idea of 3D scanning technologies entered into their field of view. At first, they tried basic methods of 3D scanning to get a CAD model they could work on, but it still wasn’t precise enough. As soon as they learned about professional 3D scanning solutions, they contacted UK-based Artec 3D Ambassadors Central Scanning, hoping they could provide the results needed. Seeing preliminary scans done with the brand new 3D scanner Artec Leo, John knew he had made the right call. “From looking at what has been captured, the amount of detail, compared to what I’ve seen previously, is second to none. It’s incredible, for what I’ve actually seen produced before,” he said.

Nick Godfrey and Tom White from Central Scanning had preliminarily analyzed the task at hand, and concluded that the Artec Leo would be the best tool for the job. “Leo is capable of capturing medium to large objects very quickly. It doesn’t require any preparation beforehand, and the scanning can be done directly on-site” said Nick. “The scanner is entirely autonomous, which means there are no cables or computers attached to it that limit your movements. We can capture virtually everything more easily than with any other 3D scanning solution.

Leo comes equipped with its own battery, a touch screen that shows the scanning in real time, and saves the data on a memory card that can be subsequently transferred to a computer. Tom scanned the Dallara in the UWTSD motor shop, without the need for any superfluous gear. All in all, the scan of the whole car took less than 2 hours. The scan data was treated on Artec Studio in a day, and a complete CAD model was sent to John a few days later.

It is important to note that in the field of aerodynamics, millimetric changes in the design can go a long way. The Artec Leo boasts an impressive data capture rate of 3 million points per second, with real-time 3D processing displayed directly on its screen. By having the geometry of the entire car digitally scanned with utmost precision, John can run a better computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation on Ansys, analyzing all the options for fine-tuning the aerodynamic profile of the car from the most realistic 3D model.

“I usually start off by trying to optimize the current component as best as I can without altering the geometry of individual components. For example, the current front wing has multiple elements, such as flaps and winglets. I would study if moving the position of the flaps would enhance the overall performance of the wing,” explained John. “This process can take months to get right. However, it can be sped up with the use of Design of Experiment (DoE) software. Once the original geometry has been optimized, I can then go on and start to develop the original geometry by studying CFD results. Using this method saves on manufacturing time and cost, as I’m trying to maintain as much of the original front wing as possible.”

After the analysis and the design work, the modified parts were sent to Fibre-Lyte, a carbon fiber manufacturer specialized in high-performance sports. With the help of a 3D milling machine, they are able to create cost effective one-off parts that can be repeated, or scaled up, if higher volumes are required.

The manufactured parts have been installed on the race car, and John already began noticing the difference: “We have seen gains in straight line and cornering speeds since modifications began. I created a number of bargeboard design iterations, with each one showing performance improvements. The simulation results show good promise in enhanced performance.”

An encounter between prehistory and high technology, where Artec Leo comes face to face with a dinosaur skull

Product: Artec Leo
Industry: Academic

Dinosaurs – Creatures that have inspired study and research for centuries, and continue to intrigue millions of people around the world today. For the preserved remains of a triceratops roaming the Earth in prehistoric times, modern technology has attributed a status few dinosaur fossils have achieved: digital immortality.

Originally discovered in 1891 near the village of Lance Creek, Wyoming, the skull of this herbivore was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. until the late 1970s. He was then loaned to the CU Museum, where he now resides; the current museum was literally built around this skull.

“The Smithsonian estimated how much it would cost to tear down that wall, pull this thing out and return it, because they own it, and it was so expensive and risky that no one wanted to do it,” says Nick Conklin, Application Engineer II of Artec’s certified partner Gold, 3D Printing Colorado. This means that the skull, in principle, stays where it is, but with 3D scanning technology, there are now previously impossible possibilities.

When Conklin and his partner David Cano first visited the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in January this year, it was for sale by a Artec Leo 3D scanner. “As we entered, we saw the skull of the triceratops and thought, ‘Hey, that would be a really cool scan, we should do it sometime!'” conklin recalls.

With each scanner that sells 3D Printing Colorado, training is included. But for Dr. William Taylor, curator of archaeology at the university, already familiar with Artec 3D scanners, another add-on was suggested.

“Dr. Taylor had already used artec Space Spider a lot, so instead of training, he decided to bring the Leo to one of his classes,” Conklin says. “He wanted us to show his students what can be done with Leo and scanning technology.”

Thus began a project of prehistoric proportions, to digitize a dinosaur skull completely.

“For 30 or 40 minutes, at one of Dr. Taylor’s night classes, I was scanning the skull of the triceratops while talking to the students, explaining what he was doing, so it was a great apprenticeship,” Conklin says. This skull scan quickly caught CU Media’s attention.

“The university’s media was everywhere, and they wanted to take pictures and videos of a dinosaur being scanned,” says Cano. “Once they found out about this, they invited us back, and this time instead of a teaching experience, it was more of a movie photo shoot,” Conklin adds.

During his second scan, something helped a lot in the session, a ladder. “With the ladder, I was able to get some details that had slipped away from me before, so it was much better,” Conklin says.

The scan took a total of 30 minutes, while the scan processing was completed in artec Studio3D software in two hours.

Using Leo, most of the surfaces were near the ground. “I was able to get everything except the top peaks from the ground with my normal range and range of motion,” Conklin says. “With his large field of view and the ease with which Leo gets the data, it was very easy. I wasn’t just scanning, as I was talking and explaining what I was doing.”

As easy to use as recording a video with your mobile, Artec Leo comes with a screen, which means you can see if you’ve captured all the areas and fill in the ones that could have been left. 3D replication is generated in real time as you scan, so you can focus on the work, how in this case, scan while demonstrating PhD students on a ladder.

“With another scanner I could have done it, but it would have been harder, I would have had to pay more attention to everything. But with Leo and how well he tracks, I was able to divide my attention between class and quality data collection. It’s definitely the best tool for this job.”

Conklin says that being able to access the skull with a ladder made the data obtained much better, as he was able to scan both the back and top of the skull and from all angles. “I liked the end result a lot more,” he says. “My biggest concern was that it’s an irreplaceable piece of archaeology, and if anything had happened to him. I don’t even want to think about it.”

Thanks to this scan, in addition to having a 3D model of the museum star, many other companies and faculties can find educational and professional opportunities. In essence, what inspires the team is the ability to do something that was previously impossible.

“Especially now that everyone stays at home, you can work from home and do whatever you want from a 3D file, such as performing simulations or conducting research,” Conklin says.

“Supporting research that would not otherwise be possible is another reason why this is important, in addition to the fact that anyone, anywhere in the world can start researching from this copy.”

From measurements to research, from global accessibility to preservation, opportunities are limitless. “Even maybe for the CGI for the next Jurassic Park movie, or video games,” Conklin suggests. “I’m excited to think about it!”

“Just to see how history is done and preserved, to see how the world changes, how something that would have been destroyed over time or for any other reason can be preserved, time passes for all, but if we can digitize things, we can go back in time eternally.”

Today, what the home of the skull has been considering is using scanning to make a mold and then create its own copy on the Smithsonian, now that they have the exact measurements of the entire skull, something they had never had before. “I don’t think we could have done it without the 3D scan,” says Conklin, who is happy to fulfill his childhood dream of wearing the archaeologist’s hat for a day. “I’ll tell you what,” he adds. “If you build a replica of this dinosaur skull from my scanning data, I’ll bring my future grandchildren to see!”

“I would like to go a step further and see what we can do with the museum in terms of digitization and help them in the long run,” Cano stresses.