Friday, February 7, 2014


To celebrate the kick-off of the 2014 Olympics we thought we'd pull a cool project from the archive:

Virtual Aerodynamic Analysis for the US Luge Team

Luge is one of the most exciting sports of the winter Olympics. A typical luge run consists of a person (or team of two) on a small sled, at speeds that can exceed 95 miles an hour, going down a course that has an average drop of 30 stories. Most sports measure results by the tenth or hundredth of a second but the difference between a gold and silver is so close that luge is the only sliding sport measured to the single thousandth of a second. Due to the extreme measurement, shaving even a couple of milliseconds off a final time can lead to a major competitive advantage.

Preparing for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, Direct Dimensions was approached by the United States Luge team with an exciting problem that could be solved in 3D. The USA Luge team was looking at some very high tech methods for testing their equipment and improving their times; one of the testing methods included virtual wind tunnel testing.

The team was interested in testing various design modifications to their sleds. Rather than making many expensive, actual modifications and putting each one through expensive physical wind tunnel and downhill testing, the team was planning on having a 3D model. With the 3D model the athletes would then be able to view, with virtual testing, where their sleds would need improvement in order to maximize their speed and lower drag.

Given this challenge, the USA Luge team contracted Direct Dimensions. Our expertise in creating models for computation fluid dynamics analysis (CFD) combined with additional experience scanning individuals for the arts and entertainment market, made Direct Dimensions uniquely suited to work on the team’s project. Over the course of a couple of days, members of the USA Luge team and their sleds were captured in 3D by DDI engineers at our facility.

The sleds themselves were captured using a laser line scanner mounted on a Faro Arm. This equipment captured the exact shape and contours to an accuracy of about a tenth of a millimeter. The athletes were then scanned in full gear and on their sleds using a Minolta Vivid 910 scanner.

With the raw 3D data gathered during scanning, Direct Dimensions engineers then created reverse engineered 3D CAD models of the sleds and their athletes. These models allowed the team to conduct computation fluid dynamics (CFD) with greater precision and accuracy given the exact human measurements of team members in relation to their sleds.

After the 2006 games a few members of the team returned to Direct Dimensions with their doubles sled for further scanning and modeling. The modifications created from these 3D models will hopefully enable the USA Luge team to continue increasing their speeds.