International luge judge Dennis Guertin and NMU Professor Tom Meravi have been working together for years to perfect the parts Guertin uses to ensure that competitors meet safety standards and regulations. Recently, the two took the metal gauges Guertin had been using and created new, plastic gauges with a rapid prototyping machine (essentially a 3D printer).
The necessity for these new gauges was simple, according to Guertin, who just returned from the Olympic Luge-Style Junior World Championships in Lake Placid, New York. During one day of luge competition, he measured dozens of racers’ finger spikes, as well as the runners, blades and handles of their luge sleds.
“When you’re standing out on the track all day, the metal gauges get too cold,” Guertin said, whereas the new plastic gauges that Professor Meravi and Eric Lintula have crafted don’t get cold, and they’re easier to make.
After taking dimensions from existing metal gauges, Eric Lintula drafted drawings in the Solidworks computer program, which were then sent to the rapid prototyping machine. The prototyping machine constructed gauges from plastic, which could then be used to refine the drawings.
The rapid prototype machine has allowed Meravi and Lintula to work with Guertin to perfect molds of individual gauges before beginning mass production, making possible the quick evolution of products in an efficient and cost effective manner.
Through this cooperative effort, NMU has helped to improve upon a fascinating sport, which, according to Guertin, “has roots in upper Michigan,” while allowing for greater learning opportunities and creativity for students.