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Lacrosse stick design favors 3-D CAD

July 7, 1999

4 Min Read
Lacrosse stick design favors 3-D CAD

Paradox Design has earned a name as the company that invented the first snowboarding helmet, now an industry standard. The Toronto-based firm, specializing in sports equipment, recently came up with another innovation: a new stick design for women’s lacrosse called the Tsunami. “This design probably had the most complex curves I have seen,” says Paradox director Roger Ball. “There is not one straight line on the part. It is all convex and concave curves flowing into each other. To do it in old-style 2-D would have been impossible. Without 3-D CAD, we would have had to do the entire thing by hand.”

Challenging Sport

For those unfamiliar with the game, the women’s version of lacrosse is widely different from the men’s version, which is a contact sport that includes heavy padding, strict boundaries, and hockey-style stick clashing. Women’s lacrosse is truer to the roots of the original sport developed by Native Americans. There are no boundaries beyond what nature has created on the field, no contact, and no protective padding or helmets. Players catch and throw a hard rubber ball using a stick with laces at the top. The stick must be thinner than that used by the men, and the net in the stick’s head must not have a pocket.

In the past, most female lacrosse players either used a crude, crook-shaped wooden stick or a men’s lacrosse head design fitted to the thinner stick. Neither has been ideal for modern competition. However, women’s lacrosse is growing faster than men’s lacrosse. According to Brine Inc., a leading manufacturer of lacrosse and soccer equipment, Title IX in the NCAA requires equal amounts of money be spent on women’s and men’s college sports. As a result, the company sees an important market opportunity.

Design Parameters

Erik Brine, product manager of Brine Inc., has contracted with Paradox Design to create lacrosse stick heads for the last 10 years. Brine gave Paradox the following design parameters: Make it lightweight, conform to the rule book, and give it a unique competitive feature. He did not tell Paradox what the unique feature had to be, but relied on Roger Ball’s creativity and experience.

Paradox moved the design from drawing board to CAD files ready for tooling in about four months. By making a notchback design, the company was able to create a pseudopocket that holds the ball firmly in the head while keeping a sleek look. A new lace-lock feature provides a cam buckle that allows players to tighten the laces quickly. Catching the heavy rubber ball repeatedly can quickly loosen laces in a lacrosse stick, and referees are constantly checking for illegal pockets that form during play. The player would then have to struggle with tightening the laces by hand. The cam-buckle design makes the lace adjustment in seconds, reports Paradox.

To judge the success of the design, focus groups were created at colleges all over North America, including the reigning NCAA Division III champion team at Middlebury College. The focus groups played with the prototypes for two weeks before the final designs were settled.

Concept to Market

Paradox provides full service for all of its clients, moving an idea from initial sketch to first production. For the lacrosse stick project, Ball and his team created basic sketches of what the product should look like, adding a client wish list created during conferences. Using graphics software like Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator, more advanced sketches were created. Paradox then sculpted physical models, which were later modified to incorporate suggestions from the consumer focus groups.

A final model was created after a few weeks and then reverse-engineered using laser scanners or a probe arm. Scanned points can be translated directly into Cadkey (Baystate Technologies). Steve Copeland, president of Paradox, uses the software’s ability to create 3-D solid models (FastSolid module), 3-D surface models (FastSurf module), 3-D wireframe models, and 2-D models.

“We’ve been able to do some really difficult projects,” says Copeland. “Some of our clients use higher-end CAD software, yet we’ve been able to do complex, ergonomic, injection molded forms with no problem translating them into higher-end programs.”

Paradox performed moldfilling analysis on the final Tsunami design before sending it out to be turned into a stereolithography prototype, which went back to the focus groups for more suggestions.

Prototypes and revisions took only a few weeks, the result of efficient CAD manipulation and rapid prototyping. Once the final prototype came to light, the CAD file was used to create a bronze EDM model using CNC laser cutters. Moldmakers then used the EDM electrode to cut the tooling.

Ball helped set up the production line during mold startup, and supervised the early days of production. Heads for the sticks are molded from a proprietary nylon that withstands lacrosse wear and tear. Once production was under way, Brine took over the project.

Tsunami sticks were commercially introduced in midseason 1998. Such timing normally means a lost season for manufacturers, but the design was readily received by female lacrosse players. Its popularity helped it to become the choice of the Middlebury team, which went on to become repeat division champions.

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