Engineering student develops putter using 3D metal printing
Nelson Mandela University student-athlete Wian van Aswegen has combined his love of golf with an interest in engineering to develop a putter which is sure to attract the attention of golfers.
The 21-year-old, a fourth-year engineering student who plays for the Madibaz team, developed the idea following a discussion with lecturer Clive Hands, who heads the university’s Advanced Engineering Design Group (AEDG).
The prototype putter base was constructed by way of 3D metal (plastic is commonly used) printing and carbon composite was added as weights.
Van Aswegen said his desire to be involved in the golfing industry led to the project.
“One day Clive asked what I wanted to do when I attained my degree and that developed into a discussion about the engineering and design work involved in golf equipment manufacturing,” said Van Aswegen, who grew up in Port Alfred.
“Later he mentioned the possibility of introducing additive manufacturing [3D printing] to golf clubs.
“We saw articles of other bigger organisations, such as [equipment manufacturer] Callaway, that have also started to consider this approach. So we accepted the challenge to create our own unique design with the assistance of Rapid3D and Custom Works.”
Van Aswegen represented Eastern Province at various age-group levels and said his knowledge of the sport enabled him to design the putter.
One of the key elements is that the putter is custom-made.
“That is what is so nice about additive manufacturing because we can adapt the design to any specific needs of the user,” he explained. “We can change the loft, the lie angle and, by introducing lattice structure, we can distribute weight to where it is needed.”
So far Van Aswegen has received encouraging feedback from those who have tested his design.
“I have given it to my golfing friends to test and most of the feedback has been positive. People enjoy the feel and the look of it, and its performance is similar to modern putters.
“Many golfers are convinced that old methods are the only and best option, but they were pleasantly surprised with the aesthetics and performance of the 3D-printed putter.”
Van Aswegen said the putter could currently only be used for social play.
“The R&A [one of golf’s governing bodies] have to approve the design before it may be used in competition. Once we have finalised our design, we will set out to get it approved.”
He recommended that anyone who was interested in obtaining a putter go through a fitting process.
“This is where the person would undergo testing to determine what weight and putter shape would be most beneficial for them.
“With this information they can describe what face balance they want and they can specify the weighting, plus any accessories such as colours or logos.
“Taking that information, we can create a product specifically for them.”
Van Aswegen said it was still early days in terms of retail, but that the aim would be to eventually make it publicly available.
“Also, the use of a website will allow people to contact us or to place orders by entering their desired putter specifications.”
Although the project is his responsibility, he acknowledged the input from several quarters.
“Arno Seyfert from Custom Works and Lynton Dent from Rapid3D have provided us with much-needed advice and assistance in terms of the component manufacturing.
“As the lecturer in charge of the AEDG group, Clive has had a lot of input and helped us to contact all the right people to maintain our design progress.”
Author: Coetzee Gouws, Full Stop Communication