In this special sports feature Curve takes a look at design winners.

Football, in its many codes and colours, is set to surge ahead in leaps and bounds with the pending arrival of a new football boot called Rotasole.

While Rotasole was designed with the aim of reducing knee injuries, footy fans will also be impressed with the ‘performance enhancing’ ability of what looks more like a shoe than a boot.

Rotasole features a rotating portion of the outsole of the boot that can turn up to thirty degrees in either direction, and spring back to the centre when the foot is lifted naturally.

Inventor Dr Jack Goldberg identified a need for the new football boot when his son started playing football. Initially he was attempting to reduce the risk of injury for players and the concept has now been expanded to include other sports with a court shoe version for netball and basketball players.

According to Jon Seddon, director of Ideation Design in Melbourne – where the concept is being developed – the project has been running for about nine years.

“Most of the extended time is in seeking and working with a development partner willing to manufacture and market such an innovative concept,” Seddon explains.

“There is often reluctance from the larger established companies to embrace a new technology, when their own sales are still strong.

“The elapsed time has meant that we can now exploit new material technology that was previously unavailable. The project is currently with a new development partner.

"We are doing over-mould testing to establish their manufacturing expertise for this type of sports shoe.”

According to Seddon, biomechanical research has indicated that up to thirty degrees rotation in either direction can significantly reduce the stress in the knee area which results in a lower number of injuries and/or less serious injuries occurring. The rotation is achieved while maintaining stability and contact with the ground.

Several versions of the Rotasole boot have been tested from “screw in stud” (winter boots) to “moulded in cleats”. Rotasole has also developed rubber sole versions for pre-season training.

Reduction of knee stress is one aspect of the Rotasole. The independent nature of the rotating disk provides other performance benefits such as increased turning ability and increased power in some sports.

The bellows flexibility also allows the studs on a football boot to stay in the ground longer providing longer contact with the ground for the particular manoeuvre being attempted.  

Smart training partner

Elite athletes constantly looking for ways to improve their training and monitor their performance are turning to a locally designed data collection device, called the SPI-10 developed by GPSports Systems, based in Canberra.

According to Michael Johns, chief operating officer for GPSports, the SPI-10 had its first incarnation in 1998 when one of the original partners put his notebook computer into his backpack – wrapped it in plastic and attached an antenna to his hat – to measure
the speed of his windsurfer.

Since then the unit has evolved to its unique status and has been sold to major sports science universities, academies and institutes of sport around the world.

Johns is proud of its universal acceptance: it is being used as a tool to assist coaching in elite football leagues, athletics, hockey, rowing and yachting, and will be used by New Zealand triathletes to assist in their preparation for the Athens Olympics. 

The SPI-10 combines Global Position Satellite technology, GPS, and physiological data to analyse an athlete’s performance accurately through space and time.

The wearer can use it to monitor their heart rate and current speed, explains Johns. During sport or exercise, data is collected from the wearer each second.

After exercise the data can be downloaded to a computer using software to determine time standing, walking, jogging, sprinting and the heart rate during each part of the activity. In the past there has been no unobtrusive or cheap way of collecting this data. 

During use the unit operates as a ‘human speedo’ and displays speed, distance and heart rate information to the user. When the data is downloaded and analysed, using the GPSports Athelete Management System, AMS, targeted training programs can be developed.

Johns says the SPI-10 was largely developed in-house by GPSports Systems Pty Ltd and utilised existing skills in the areas of electronics engineering, software development and design.

The product is a serious training tool at the elite level and has enormous potential in the broader lifestyle sports market. The unit does not need to be reconfigured for a wearer or for sport.

It is just switched on and ready for use, for cycling, running, rollerblading, skiing or team sports.

The SPI-10 is light and small and can be carried in the hand, on a belt or arm strap utilising an integrated loop on the plastic body, or in a miniature backpack supplied with the unit.

Johns says the unit is simple to use and incorporates numerous options for measuring speed and distance. It can be programmed to keep the user in heart rate or speed zones for endurance or to prevent over exertion by using audible tones.

“We believe the SPI-10 is the first elite sport specific GPS product of its kind in the world and is one of the smallest GPS based devices on the market.”  

Golf ball goes geometric

Researching the intricate patterns that occur on the surface of a fly’s eye along with close inspection of the tessellated patterns on shark skin were just two examples of natural inspiration for the designers of a revolutionary golf ball to be made in Australia.

And designing a new golf ball is a lot harder than most of us may think, according to Craig Mounsey, managing director of Craig Mounsey Design (CMD) in Brisbane.

“Initially we researched occurrences in nature where shapes and patterns were tessellated. Shark skin was just one example in nature where tessellating shapes formed intricate patterns, so we used the principals of shark skin as an inspiration for two of our initial concepts. 

“Further research led us to the intricate patterns that occur on the surface of a fly’s eye. This was exactly what we wanted (hundreds of tiny circular shapes neatly packed onto the surface of a curved face).

Unfortunately the task of arranging dimples on to the surface of a spherical shape proved to be extremely difficult.

There is a fine balance between the ratio of the three dimple sizes on the ball. If one of the dimples was to increase by just a slight amount, it would result in the creation of too many flat spots.”

Mounsey says the original brief from the client was simply to make the best golf ball on the market by combining innovative design and manufacturing technology. 

The client, Ignis, had researched performance balls and knew of preferred materials, manufacturing processes and design capabilities. They specifically wanted CMD to focus on the following three areas:

• elimination of lines of symmetry, this included the partline that is evident on all golf balls as this has a dramatic effect on its flight 

• enhanced ball penetration and flight stability with optimal dimple arrangement

• adherence to the US GA strict dimensional and weight rules

• product appearance and marketability

He says Ignis is a totally Australian owned company that was established last year, specialising in manufacturing high performance golf balls.

“One of the primary drivers for the project, and the formation of the company, was that Australia currently purchases in the vicinity of twenty million golf balls per year but not one of them is currently being produced here.

"The client is a firm believer in Australian design and manufacturing and saw the potential in supporting and promoting local industries.”

The inner material of the golfball is essentially a copolyester elastomer but has several other materials added to allow the core to form an homogenous solid without forming voids internally or blistering externally, due to the thickness of the inner core section.

Several other materials are added to modify the core’s specific gravity, improve distance and modify the restitution characteristics. Colour is added and can affect final appearance as the outer layer is quite thin.

The outer cover is a blend of ionomer materials that are cut and abrasion resistant. Material selection is a balancing exercise to achieve a ball that strikes well and does not compromise distance or cover durability.

Mounsey explains that the ratio of dimpled surface area to non-dimpled surface area (or flat spots) has a dramatic effect on the flight of any golf ball.

“A good golf ball has a maximum amount of dimpled surface area and virtually no flat spots. One of the design problems that we faced was in arranging the dimple patterns in such a way that we could reduce the amount of dead space contained on the ball.

"The result was an arrangement of 362 dimples of varying diameters and depths.

“The effect that the partline has on the flight of the ball is quite significant. Due to ease of manufacturing most balls have a dominant partline that cuts the ball into two obvious hemispheres, this results in a very obvious line of symmetry.

"The result is the formation of a seam line that disrupts the flight path and causes the ball to swerve off course. The design that CMD produced incorporates a stepped partline that eliminates all lines of symmetry on the ball.”

For CMD the project has been a major exercise in geometry and surface detailing. And unlike most golf ball designs, where changes are made to the existing product, theirs was started from scratch.

“We spent a considerable amount of time assessing the appropriateness of many three dimensional geometric shapes to assist us in creating a suitable and finely packed dimple pattern,” explains Mounsey.

“After much research, we discovered that if we altered a buckyball by truncating its apexes we would have the basis from which we were able to start arranging a tightly packed dimple pattern.

"A bucky-ball is a thirty-two sided geometric solid that consists
of surfaces of hexagons and pentagons. From the base shape, we truncated off each apex – which resulted in the addition of sixty small triangular faces.

"The truncated buckyball is a ninety-two sided solid with hexagonal, pentagonal and triangular faces.
This formed the basis from which we were able to tessellate the dimple patterns.”

The injection moulding tool for the new design is currently being produced and CMD hopes to start tooling trials soon. Ignis plans to launch the ball this year and intends to consolidate production and sales in Australia before exporting.  

Reeling in the changes

Meeting market demand is a priority for most designers and when it comes to fishing equipment, an intimate knowledge of the consumer’s needs is essential.

Alvey has been manufacturing fishing reels in Australia since the 1920s and has been successfully meeting the needs of competitive and recreational anglers.

Alvey manufactures a range of surf casting reels along with deep sea reels. Over the last ten years they have been progressively changing from stainless steel fabricated construction to injection moulded, engineering grade plastic to make the reels lighter and stronger.

A recent challenge for managing director, Bruce Alvey and tool designer Ron Rae, was to produce a new model, the 825 with a 205mm diameter spool to replace two of the older style models.

The initial concept was inspired and commissioned by Bruce Alvey with the concept design undertaken in-house. They then teamed up with Infinity Design in Brisbane to perfect the form and assist in the product’s seamless manufacturing and assembly.

The graphite vented 825 series boat reel uses a graphite back and vented spool to keep weight down but still offers the angler a powerful low maintenance reel for deep sea fishing.

Alvey reels are accepted today throughout Australia, and in many overseas countries, as the most efficient and reliable reels marketed.

The Alvey reel history began in 1920 when Charles Alvey, an English migrant, saw the need for a fishing reel that was easy to use, easy to cast, simple to maintain, and solidly constructed to give many years of trouble free angling.

He designed a reel which allowed the body of the reel to be turned sideways when casting, permitting the line to strip freely from the edge of a specially shaped spool.

This took away the problems of ‘back-lash’ and ‘overrun’ common to users of the multiplying type of reel. While it was revolutionary in its early stages, anglers came to recognise the advantages of using this innovative reel.  

Rugby roadshow 

The outstanding success of the Rugby World Cup may have taken many people by surprise but the design team at BlueSky Creative were working behind the scenes to ensure Australians opened their arms and minds to the international series.

BlueSky Creative were the talent behind The Rugby World Cup Roadshow – Australian Rugby True Colours Tour, which toured Australia from mid July through to October last year. 

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) wanted to use the staging of the World Cup to increase interest in the game and introduce the code to a younger audience.

The tour visited almost fifty towns and cities across Australia starting with Cairns in July last year. The tour covered 20,000 kilometres before concluding in Sydney on the day Rugby World Cup 2003 kicked off – in October. 

Mark Armstrong, director of Bluesky Creative says the design strategy focused on using interactive games and fun to promote the sport.

“BlueSky was responsible for the design and production of all the graphics, interactive games, signage, lecterns, inflatables, and media backdrops for the roadshow.

Simple yet dramatically designed on the outside and energized by large format photographs
of action rugby shots and crowned by a massive inflatable ball, the rig was brightly coloured in blue with accents of yellow.”

The roadshow included a travelling rugby exhibition on the inside of a semi-trailer where there were interactive, educational and human-interest components. There were six touch screen interactive stations where trivia questions were asked and games played.

The tour also included ‘rugby interactive games’ that were set-up on a sports field, in a mall or shopping centre giving kids a chance to experience some aspects of the game. 

“BlueSky designed three interactives each five meters tall covering the unique aspects of the games; scrum, lineout and pass. The lineout interactive had cut out players and the kids had to throw the ball into the hole where the hands were.

"If they hit the target, the interactive erupted with the noise of a roar from the crowd. The ‘pass’ and ‘scrum’ had similar level of interaction to get people excited and to educate them about the game.”  

Wave of content

Comfort and styling are at the heart of the world’s first stitchless boardshorts from the designers at international surfing company, Rip Curl.

Combining 21st century technologies with its constant search for innovation and progress has driven Rip Curl to re-invent the traditional boardshort.

Laser-cutting the fabric, electro-welding the seams and assembling the pieces in a mould results in comfortable and durable boardshorts.

Mould assembly allows the fabrics to be contoured to fit and move with the body. The absence of stitches means any discomfort from sewn seams is now an irritation of the past.

Rip Curl group surfwear chairman Fred Basse, the man primarily responsible for the CODE STL boardshorts, says surfers in warm climates around the world will take to the new approach.

“We employ and sponsor a lot of surfers and in talking to them about boardshorts, a common complaint was that stitched seams are annoying and uncomfortable,” he said.

“So coming up with the stitchless idea wasn’t that hard, although getting from the idea to actually producing it required plenty of work with a variety of people and organisations, over the past three years. But we’ve broken through to come up with a world first,” Basse said.  

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