Cambridge product design innovator Innovia Technology has deployed cutting-edge science to help swimwear manufacturer Arena produce an upgrade of a pioneering carbon technology suit.
The first version was worn by 35 medallists in the pool at the London Olympics – including 10 gold medal winners – and the powered-up new version is tipped to make a splash in this summer’s Games in Rio.
The new POWERSKIN Carbon-Ultra suit incorporates an outer ‘carbon cage’ shell to maximise hydrodynamics with a revolutionary inner ‘Ultra-Link System’ to optimise the athlete’s physiology.
The ‘power inside’ concept was inspired by Arena’s work with Innovia, a partnership that has flourished since 2008; the collaboration has provided new levels of theoretical understanding into how a swimsuit can be designed to maximise the effectiveness of a swimmer’s action in the water.
Arena was the first swimwear company to engage in textile and fluid dynamics research with the aim of developing the fastest, lightest, smoothest and most durable products for competitive and recreational swimmers.
The R &D team at Arena, along with Innovia and an international scientific network, have analysed how introducing an active inner layer can maximise the effectiveness of the swimmer’s actions in the water, over and above the existing benefits of the POWERSKIN Carbon series.
Andy Milton, innovation consultant at Innovia, says that the POWERSKIN Carbon series took high performance swimwear to a new level: “To support the breakthrough design, we integrated deep knowledge of the physiology and mechanics of swimming with insights into apparel development. This embraced fluid mechanics, material science, physiology and psychology.
“As a result, we were able to provide arena with options for the design of the suit, including guidelines for fabric construction, and also advice for communicating the benefits of the technology effectively to professionals.”
The POWERSKIN Carbon series introduced a carbon weave, which provides intelligent compression, keeping the athlete’s body in the optimum position at all times. Carbon fibres are thinner than a human hair and intricately woven into the suits. The result is a suit that is remarkably strong and durable, and able to compress without constricting.
These strong fibres also prevent the immense stress on the muscles that many swimmers experience while competing. The new suit takes carbon technology further: The outer shell features an Ultra-Cage where increased carbon in the material provides a strongly anisotropic response (‘stretchy’ in one direction; stiff in another) accurately conforming to an athlete’s shape, distributing pressure to streamline the body and make every movement count.
The Carbon-Ultra suit also incorporates a new level of support and movement management with an internal structure: the Ultra-Link System. By connecting key muscle groups and isolating upper and lower body movements, this system is said to increase a swimmer’s efficiency and improve body position in the water. And by targeting specific compression zones, it further supports and streamlines the body to reduce turbulence and drag.
Along with Innovia, the arena scientific network also includes Kinetech Labs, the University of Bologna Faculty of Exercise and Sport Sciences, and the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne.
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