It’s unsurprising to see 3D printing entering the world of sports. After all, its mixture of deep customisation, precision manufacturing and design flexibility makes it perfect for the creation of personalised equipment, as we saw with the titanium horseshoes that may, one day, allow racehorses reach greater speeds.
What makes the sports-focused project developed in collaboration between Dundee University and St. Andrews Golf Club different, however, is that it is focussed on preserving sporting history rather than crafting sporting future. This week, the team unveiled two 3D printed replicas of historically important iron clubs. Though, these days, golf clubs are manufactured utilising mass production methods, in the early days of the game every single one was handmade.
Now, St. Andrews Golf Company is the only brand that still uses handcrafting techniques. The company wants to make sure that the history of the game is not forgotten, however, and so teamed up with a team of 3D print experts from the University to reproduce a ‘President’ Water Iron and a Rake Iron, both of which hail from the late 19th Century.
As St. Andrews’ Grant Payne explains:
Studying the evolution of golf clubs is one of the best ways of learning about the game’s history. The two clubs we looked at are interesting because they date from a time that was known as golf’s ‘era of innovation’, when the sport as we know it today really came into being.
The Rake Iron, which was first created in 1890 by a Montrose optometrist who noticed a slew of golfers coming to his practice complaining of sand grains in their eyes, was specially designed in order to stop sand casting up at the player during bunker shots. The ‘President’, was made in 1885 by James Anderson. The originals are currently housed in the British Golf Museum.
After being scanned by the team using a Next Engine 3D Scanner, the replica’s heads were printed by EOS in Germany in cobalt chrome via metal laser sintering and finished in Scotland. They were then attached to a hickory shaft and grip, polished and stamped with the date and time.
St. Andrews want the pieces to be used to teach people around the world about the evolution of one of Scotland’s most famous sporting exports.