Formlabs says that Louisville Slugger is bringing together America’s historical pastime and its ‘inherent drive to look towards the future’ with Formlabs 3D printing for next-generation baseball equipment prototypes, at its Innovation Center in Roseville, California. Since 1984, Louisville Slugger has been manufacturing baseball bats and equipment for Major League Baseball (MLB) as well as college, high school, and youth teams.
Product Designer John Steel typically uses a combination of traditional and modern tools to design and manufacture parts. Speaking about the use of AM he said: “If you’re not using 3D printing, you’re not going to keep up.”
Steel is using the Form 3 stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer to create both looks-like prototypes and manufacturing aids for prototype designs of composite and aluminium bats used by youth and collegiate players.
Formlabs says that players are always looking for an edge that will help them swing faster and hit harder. The company said for youth players, the right edge could be finding a bat that is the correct weight and lets them make solid contact and keep their grip as they learn the game.
For collegiate players, a competitive edge could come in the form of an inch-wide change in stance. Formlabs says that the Slugger Innovation Center, which focuses on equipment improvement, and its science facility, which focuses on athletic analytic improvements, are ways in which the company is keeping the sport of baseball forward looking.
Speaking about the Form 3, Steel added: “We’re able to rapidly produce prototypes for quick iteration and testing. We use it every week, and if we’re working through a new design, we’ll iterate on it every day. The speed of iteration allows the Slugger team to release new products regularly, and keep up with demand for bats suitable for all different levels of play.”
Slugger previously used aluminium tooling when manufacturing silicone parts, but now uses 3D printing to create the positive geometry, then backpours in silicone, before cutting the silicone mould apart and using the resulting negative to make other types of parts.