Computational Fluid Dynamics and Product Development in Sports
The optimization of individual components by means of CFD simulations is nowadays no longer limited to only motorsports such as the Red Bull Air Race or the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) but is also common in high performance sports such as cycling or ski jumping.
Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, describes very well the shift in various sports towards product optimization in a push to increase efficiency: “Today, the Tour de France looks like the Formula 1 of cycling: materials tested in the wind tunnel, perfectly prepared and shielded athletes – every little thing seems calculated.”
With equal physical conditions more and more often, the perfect sports material decides the end result this feels calculated, and it truly is.
Through CFD simulations, bionic surface technologies makes a significant contribution to improving the efficiency of sports equipment and thus to the success of the athletes.
The main focus is on the aerodynamics: many athletes must fight against incredible wind resistance.
With the same physical enviroment, many professional athletes invest in aerodynamic testing and try to get the most out of their equipment to gain the crucial advantage.
A good example of how important innovative ideas in the field of aerodynamics are is cycling, where the cyclist and his bicycle are obstructed by the air flow. Only by forming a streamlined unit does the least driving resistance occur, which is essential for victory.
A first step in the right direction is the use of aerodynamic helmets, also called Aero helmets, in cooperation with UVEX, bionic surface technologies was able to show which areas of a bicycle helmet can be aerodynamically optimized by using CFD.
The forces acting on the cyclist were analyzed once without a helmet and then with two different variations of helmets in the wind tunnel.
The result showed that not only the helmet plays a major role in itself, but also the position of it, as well as the cyclist’s head position. In addition, a three-dimensional scan of the cyclist and the aero helmet was made for the subsequent simulation with CFD.
The CFD calculations made it possible to identify detachment zones and stagnation points. These stagnation points result in a suboptimal airflow – thus creating a pressure resistance, against which the cyclist has to fight additionally. With this, the cyclist loses energy and speed.
Furthermore, the helmets inner airflow and its heat displacement were also taken into account, so that in addition to the improved aerodynamics the optimal cooling of the cyclist is guaranteed as well.
From the improved prototypes of bionic surface technologies, the company UVEX developed a new Aero helmet: the UVEX race 6, which impresses with a sophisticated construction method and improved results in the wind tunnel test.
In addition, the ventilation of the race 6 has been optimized so that the cyclist can experience a comfortable fit.