Advanced golf balls, oversized golf drivers, ergonomically engineered putters, revamped golf tees.
These are all pieces of golfing equipment the New York Times lists as items that should, after nine centuries of potential development, have helped even the most physically uncoordinated of golfers to get up to par.
The National Golf Foundation states that the average 18-hole score still remains to be around 100, the same scores golfers were shooting 80 years ago with MacGregor persimmon woods.
However, the future of improved golfing may lie in the hands of the “Fantastic Four” of Direct Digital Manufacturing.
Four Tech ME graduate students, James Potter, Heather Humphreys, Yang Xie and Raphael Okereke, received first place in the 2009 Design for Direct Digital Manufacturing Student Competition (DDM) for their prototype design of a 5-iron customized golf club with integrated sensors. Each submission must include a JPEG of the design as well as a one-page summary of why the design is suited to direct digital manufacturing.
DDM is a rapid prototyping technique that uses an additive machine process to reduce manual labor.
The embedded motion sensors in the club provide information about the motion of the club in space.
An additional embedded wireless transmission device feeds real time motion information for research.
“[The club] could be used for either golf simulation, like a game, or as a training aid to give information for swing improvement,” Humphreys said.
One of the advantages of DDM is shape customization.
“I guess the club manufacturers do that to some extent now. They mix and match parts of clubs to customize for their customers,” Humphreys said.
“So with the DDM, you can go a step further with mass customization,” Humphreys said.
“You can do anything you want with it. You can put your name on it, do anything you want with the graphics on it,” Potter said.
David Rosen, Director of the Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute at Georgia Tech and Associate Professor and Woodruff Faculty Fellow, suggested the students enter the contest as an extension to their ME 6104 class, the Fundamentals of CAD.
Humphreys and Potter both play golf and chose the subject because it was a topic that interested both of them.
“We made the CAD model, and then bounced around some ideas and played around a lot. There was a lot of brainstorming,” Potter said.
“We also did a lot of research into the DDM machines themselves, how much they cost and how much the materials cost,” Potter said.
Rosen accepted the award on behalf of the students at the annual RAPID conference held in Schaumburg, Ill. and the winning designs were on display at the RAPID conference and Exposition May 12 to 14.
“The first place entry was seen to be an excellent example of utilizing the customization capabilities of DDM in a personal interaction device,” said Jane Wellington, Member and Industry Relations Manager of Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
“The justification of the DDM process and material was sound,” Wellington said.
The students were unable to attend the conference due to a lack of funds.
The team is not quite sure if they will be entering another contest similar to the DDM Student Competition, but if so they all agreed that they would do one that has a cash prize.