MTC and NCC aid Paralympic gold rush

Written by: Andrew Wade | Published:
(Credit: MTC)

The Manufacturing Technology Centre and National Composite Centre have helped a UK Paralympic legend add to her career gold medal tally at the Tokyo games.

Emma Wiggs took gold in the VL2 paracanoe event using a customised paddle designed with the aid of experts from the two organisations. Having been a part of the London 2012 ParalympicsGB’s sitting volleyball team, Wiggs went on to take gold at the Rio 2016 games in the KL2 200 metre canoeing event. Despite this success, she and her team were seeking marginal gains ahead of Tokyo, and identified the paddle as a potential area where design improvements could help boost her performance.

Engineers from the MTC and NCC worked with Wiggs and her coaches at British Canoeing to capture the current equipment dimensions and properties, as well as Emma’s ergonomics and individual technique to generate speed and power through the water. The team developed a fluid simulation model using a digital twin of the old paddle to inform the new design of the carbon fibre paddle developed with the NCC.

"I'm incredibly proud of working with the MTC and the NCC on this project,” said Wiggs. “Races are won on small margins and this demonstrates that the right adaptions to our equipment to better suit our abilities can make all the difference on race day. I won my gold medal in a Paralympic best time under extreme pressure, but knowing I had the best possible paddle in my hands made a huge difference and massively contributed to me securing the gold medal.”

The NCC focused on upgrading the carbon fibre body of the paddle, conducting a full review of Wiggs’ existing one and digitally simulating it to test if the lay-up materials and design concept chosen would withstand the forces applied in the water. They then designed a modular multi-part split mould to manufacture paddles with different angles. The final paddle used in Tokyo had a lightweight bespoke handle and a more than 150 per cent stiffer paddle with an improved angle on entry into the water to maximise Wiggs’ power output.

The paddle was further customised using lightweight lattice structures and 3D scanning technology. The handles were then manufactured using high-performance polymer 3D printing, in partnership with MTC member Carbon.

"This has been a great demonstration of how, through technology and ingenuity, we can overcome any challenge,” said MTC project lead Miguel Fernandez-Vicente.

“It's been amazing to use our accumulated knowledge to help Emma achieve her objectives, thanks to great teamwork between her, the MTC and the NCC."

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