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February 25, 2020

Insight into the DNA of the biathlon rifle stock

Hot from the press: the world’s first custom-fit biathlon rifle to come out a 3D printer

Customized sports equipment from the 3D printer

Anschütz is the undisputed market leader in biathlon rifles. For 97% of all biathletes worldwide, Anschütz is their sports rifle of choice.

Umlaut and Anschütz use generative engineering to develop a completely new kind of biathlon rifle. Benjamin Wirthen gives insights into a fascinating process.

Biathlon is one of the most popular winter sports. This is certainly related to the exciting combination of two sports: cross-country skiing and shooting – hence, endurance, strength and highest precision at the same time. What role does your rifle play for the athletes?

The quality of the sporting gun is indeed extremely important. It depends primarily on the stock how precisely the athlete can hit with it. The stock is the rear part of the rifle that the athlete holds in his hands. The better this grip, the more precise the shots. “The shooter shoots, the stock hits” is a german saying.

Now Anschütz has developed a completely new shaft together with Synera (formerly known as ELISE) and the consulting and engineering firm umlaut. Does it just look different – or is there more to it?

This innovation is produced in the 3D printer. So the stock is not milled from one piece of wood, as it used to be the case. Instead, it is made of lightweight and yet very robust plastics. And the most important thing: we can adapt each stock individually to the shooter’s anatomy. Until now, only a few top athletes have been able to afford such a custom-made product.

What does adaptation mean regarding sport rifles?

The shaft and grip match the proportions of an athlete’s arms, hands and entire body. This makes it possible to be very accurate even after several shots. Until now, most athletes have had only a few stock variations from which they chose the most suitable model. Of course, this was not one hundred percent accurate for them.

This rifle already looks different straightaway. The stock shows many recesses. Why are they necessary?

In fact, we only used the exact amount of material needed to achieve the highest possible stability. This design is made possible by 3D printing. Here, layer after layer of material is applied allowing the final product to grow slowly. This process is called additive manufacturing. In contrast, when working with wood, the material is removed using a milling cutter, chisel or drill. Recesses and special surface structures like those in our new stock are not feasible in wood.

Anschütz is a company of long tradition. How did you decide to get into high-tech production?

We are always looking for innovations. For this important project, we are working together with Synera, an innovative provider of development software. Their program calculated how the new rifle has to be designed to meet the requirements at best. First of all, a technical DNA of the stock was created from the basic requirements. The software then independently calculates the exact design of each stock. We enter the anatomical data of the athlete in advance and the software does the individualization. This was previously unaffordable and would have taken forever.

And how do the athletes experience the new rifle?

The gun vibrates less when used. This is due to its innovative bedding with a superficial honeycomb structure. The bedding of a stock is the secret of a calm rifle: it establishes the physical connection to the athlete. This honeycomb structure is not possible in wood. Only additive manufacturing combined with Synera´s algorithm-based design gave us this chance.

Then isn’t the new rifle much more expensive than the previous models?

In fact, customization will ultimately will not even increase costs by less than ten percent. But the benefit for the athletes is enormous. We presented our innovation last season and received much interest. Next winter our stock will be seen for the first time in the competition. The twins Mareike and Sabrina Braun, called the Braunis, are among the first athletes who are already training with the new rifle stock.

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