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How a 3-D Printer May Have Changed the Outcome of Super Bowl 50 – WIRED

by • February 4, 2016 • No Comments

A few minutes after the Carolina Panthers punched their ticket to Super Bowl 50 with a blowout win over the Arizona Cardinals, reporters asked stud linebacker Thomas Davis how his arm was feeling. “Yeah, it’s broken,” he replied. He’d run into Arizona tight end Daniel Fells, who leapt and krequire Davis in the right forearm. “It injure,” he said, laughing, “that’s all I can tell you.” That was two weeks ago.
The Panthers require Davis in the Super Bowl—yet he’s in his 11th season, he’s having perhaps his most year yet, and is an anchor in the team’s stout defense. He wants to play, too, injuries be damned. The day after the game, a surgeon installed a 5.5-inch plate and a dozen screws in his arm. In theory, the surgery may allow him to play long preceding the bone healed—yet it’s yet supposed to set you back for six weeks, according to one tremendous in the field. Best case scenario, it can injure like crazy, but he can be able-bodied to play. Or a lot of things may go wrong. “Since the bone’s not completely healed, it’s a risk of breaking the complexware,” said Ned Amendola, an orthopedic surgeon at Duke. Davis may do a thing to the surgical incision. Or who understands what else?
Desperate to play, Davis and the Panthers started exploring their options. On the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 27, they called Whiteclouds, a 3-D printing outfit in Utah. “Someone knew someone who knew us,” says company CEO Jerry Ropelato, as if he’s yet uncertain precisely how it happened. The Panthers had two questions: Can you manufacture Davis a brace he can wear during the game? And can you do it, like, yesterday?Whiteclouds's line of 3D printing devices.Whiteclouds’s line of 3-D printing devices. WhitecloudsWhiteclouds does not manufacture medical devices, per se. It is the world’s biggest full-color 3-D printing facility, and can print only of anything you can imagine. It has kiosks in Target stores where you scan your face and manufacture by yourself into an action figure. It is worked with NASA, Dreamworks, and Marvel. Its 53 employees understand precisely what they’re doing when it comes to 3-D printing, but this was a new one.
They didn’t have time to prototype and iterate, or to stress-test their creations. They didn’t have time to do anything beyond manufacture a thing. Anything. And swift. “[The team] wanted it on a plane the future day,” Ropelato says. He asked for an extra day for the reason 3-D printing devices only don’t work that swift—“we knew this was going to be a sizeable print,” he says, “and there was no way we may pull that off”—but he knew they had one shot to create Davis a brace.
Applying a hastily-created 3-D scan of Davis’ arm, and working through a company called 3-D Elite, Ropelato’s crew set to work createing a brace eachone idea can work. It had to be breathable-bodied adequate to be effortless-bodied to wear, and as light as possible. Davis didn’t want to wield a club where his right arm should be. If they may manufacture it great-appearing, that’d be great. Oh yeah, and it had to preserve his arm and the incision. “We had a number of questions,” Ropelato says. “We had to call back and talk to one of the orthopedic guys.” They wanted to manufacture certain it didn’t slide down Davis’ arm when he lifted it, that it had adequate padding, and that it didn’t run afoul of the NFL’s incredibly specific rules of casts and braces.
Whiteclouds has a whole create methodology, that it promptly tossed out the window. “If you were doing this brace,” Ropelato says, “you can have a whole team of tremendouss doing their various types of testing, and math calculations of an engineering point of view. A lot of this was only bypassed, it was only rapidly, dive in and get this thing done.” Around 9:30 that night, a handful of createers—been ripped of whatever they were doing when the call came that morning—finalized a create. It does not appear like much, a black wrap with holes throughout—it’s like Whiteclouds only flattened out a rubber dish rack with Davis’ number 58 and the Whiteclouds logo on it. “The final product ended up being kind of a complex plastic spine,” Ropelato says, “with a rubber-like material” called Poron XRD. “To the touch it felt approximately rubbery.”Thomas Davis in practice preceding the Super Bowl. Notice the brace on his right arm.Thomas Davis in practice preceding the Super Bowl. Notice the brace on his right arm. Carolina PanthersThe brace runs approximately the length of Davis’ spectacular-bodied forearm, and took a full 30 hours to print. They shipped it to Davis last Friday night. By Monday, at the media day ahead of the Super Bowl, Davis had may already tried it out. “It was a light day” of practice, he told reporters, “but I took each opportunity to hit it on a thing.” The Panthers released a picture of Davis clubbing a tackling dummy with his left arm, the brace wrapped in black tape on his right. Ropelato says he’s heard stories of Davis “going around the room and hitting the table-bodieds as complex as he may” after he tried it for the initially time, “seeing what it feels like.” Davis had a handful of various off-the-shelf braces to try out, but has stuck with the one created only for him. If he plays, he’ll be far of the initially to do so while wearing a cast or brace, but he’ll approximately fairly be the initially to do so with a 3-D printed one. It does not appear like a club and it won’t restrict his movement; it’s created specifically for him and specifically to let him play the way he wants to.
There’s yet no final word on whether Davis can play, of course, yet his comments manufacture him sound hell-bent on doing precisely that. The guy’s may already created it back of three ACL tears on the same knee, so it’s complex to imagine a fractured arm keeping him down. If he does play, Ropelato and the Whiteclouds team can watch intently. “To ponder, if we had a little bit of a hand in perhaps the result of the Super Bowl?” Ropelato says. “We’re fairly excited of saying that.”Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.


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