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3D printing may give Kiwi athletes a leg up as they prepare for Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

It has been three years since German cyclist, Denise Schindler, became the first athlete to compete with a fully 3D-printed prosthetic leg at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Now, Zenith Tecnica, the only company in New Zealand harnessing EBM technology to supply and manufacture 3D printed titanium components, has revealed their recent collaboration with High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ). A supplier to Formula 1 teams, America's Cup Regatta teams, manufacturer of medical implants and instruments and even having manufactured components in space.

“Zenith Tecnica offers a freedom of design to a lot of engineers, so we are not constrained to classical manufacturing methods like machining and casting. It allows us and the engineers to do whatever we want,” says Peter Sefont, production manager at Zenith Tecnica.

Working with Duncan Anderson, the hardware engineer at HPSNZ, Zenith Tecnica has produced highly advanced and personally tailored prosthetics for two of New Zealand's most esteemed Para athletes, Holly Robinson and Anna Grimaldi.

 “This is a piece of equipment that would enable them to train like an able-bodied person; granting the use of both arms with a full range of movement, achieving a full body balance” says Raylene Bates, Athletics New Zealand high performance coach."

3D-printed titanium, it is hoped that these prosthetics will give Robinson and Grimaldi an edge over the competition as they prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, opening up training methods and exercises that were often off limits due to the fallbacks of their shelf prosthetic solutions.

“Zenith Tecnica 3D printed the new attachment for Holly and Anna to use in the gym. It’s providing them with something different that you can’t buy off the shelf, that enables them to be the best that they can be,” commented Dr Stafford Murray, HPSNZ head of Innovation."

None of this would have been possible if it wasn't for Zenith Tecnica’s expertise in Electron Beam Melting (EBM) technology, allowing them to go beyond the boundaries of what is achievable with conventional manufacturing methods and redefining production timelines in the process.

“The opportunity of working with Zenith Tecnica has expanded my horizons hugely and allowed me to think about design and possibilities of design in a whole new different way,” says Anderson.

Both Robinson and Grimaldi are competing at the Australian Track & Field champs this week (April 1-7) and they have both been selected to represent New Zealand at the 2019 Oceania Area and Combined Events Championships in June. We wish the best of luck to both Holly and Anna on their upcoming ventures.

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