March 2019

How 3D printing is helping Welsh kicker deliver three pointers

For Welsh rugby international Dan Biggar, when his trusty kicking tee finally gave up the ghost and fell apart after 15 years of service last year, the Welsh international was desperate to find a replacement. Rather than spend hours and hours trying to find a kicking tee similar enough to take the place of his long-serving one, Biggar was instead offered the chance of an almost virtually identical tee – all thanks to the magic of 3D printing.

Long-serving tee

Ever since he started playing rugby as a 14-year old boy during his time playing for Gorseinon and Swansea Schoolboys, Biggar had always used the same kicking tee during his entire career. As some of you who have played sport will know, changing a piece of kit or equipment can have a negative impact on how you perform. Whether it’s the change of feel, weight or look, even the smallest alteration to a competitor’s equipment can have a big impact on their overall game.

“I’m not particularly sentimental, it’s more about routine, habit and feeling familiar. Whenever I’ve used another tee, it’s never felt quite the same,” Biggar told WalesOnline.

Thinking outside the box

So, when Biggar was forced to accept that his long-serving kicking tee had assisted him for the last time, the Welshman had to think outside the box in his search for a replacement. Luckily for the 29-year old, an existing partnership between the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and Cardiff University resulted in a group of experts creating an exact replica using state-of-the-art 3D scanning and printing technology.

Biggar, who is currently part of the Welsh team’s Six Nations campaign, hasn’t let the change in tee bother him, maintaining his impressive form with the boot for both club and country since using the 3D printed version.

A winning formula

The efforts were led by Professor David Marshall, an expert in computer vision from the University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics, who works closely with the WRU’s Head of Performance, Rhodri Bown on match video analysis software.

“It was over a coffee that myself and Rhodri started brainstorming and came up with the idea of producing an identical replica of Dan’s tee using a combination of 3D scanning and printing at the University,” Professor Marshall said.

Biggar, meanwhile, is clearly happy with his new/old kicking tees:

“The last thing I want to do is change tee and for me to have a bad psychological effect or anything like that. I could never quite find a replica like it once it was unusable.”

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