Virtual ExperienceMarch 15, 2022

Australian Institute of Sport (AIS): Helping Australian athletes achieve international podium success

Challenge Engineering top-performing sporting equipment tailored to the stringent requirements of Australia’s…
Avatar Pallavi Misra


Engineering top-performing sporting equipment tailored to the stringent requirements of Australia’s elite athletes and coaches.


Using Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications to conceptualise solutions, improve design and construct sporting equipment worthy of world champions.


  • Increased performance and reduced risk of injury for Australia’s elite athletes
  • Improved ability to rapidly respond to athletes’ equipment requests and create functional solutions to their problems
  • The ability to work on projects from any location and across multiple athletes
  • Improved value for money

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is the leading high-performance sports institute in Australia. Founded in 1981, 60% of the country’s gold medals have been earned in the 40 years since its establishment, compared to the 85 years prior.

Among the Institute’s many responsibilities is designing and producing customised high-performance sporting equipment to help Australian athletes in their quest for gold.

As Andy Richardson, Sports Engineer Lead, Applied Technology and Innovation – Engineering, at AIS explains, it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.

“Often, coaches and athletes will come to us with a specific equipment challenge. Perhaps the handlebars on their bicycle aren’t as aerodynamic as they could be, or perhaps the texture of their pistol grip is just a little too slippery for precision in wet weather. They come to us with a problem they’re facing and our task is to engineer a solution tailored to each specific athlete,” he said.

According to Andy, the AIS has turned to innovation and precision engineering to ensure that Australians continue to stand high on podiums, working with Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications since 2014.

“Our technological capabilities play a huge role in ensuring Australia remains ahead of the curve when it comes to designing high-performing sporting equipment,” he said.

Helping Australians win gold

Ahead of the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, Andy’s team designed well over 100 pieces of sporting equipment for Australia’s athletes competing in disciplines from sailing and hockey, to archery and cycling.

“A big part of the design process is scanning the bodies of our athletes and turning those scans into data that we can then use in a highly tailored design process. Using SOLIDWORKS, we virtually merge this scanned data with data about mechanical interfaces – such as wheelchair racing gloves, bicycle saddles, handlebar extensions, archery release aids and finger tabs – to understand how our athletes’ bodies interact with them,” said Andy.

Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications has also been helpful for Australia’s Paralympians.

“Our Paralympians often have unique physiology which means standard equipment is typically ineffective. SOLIDWORKS helps us create equipment tailored to our Paralympians’ specific physiology, helping them perform better,” he said.

“In fact, we used SOLIDWORKS to design a customised wheelchair for Dylan Alcott – the only person to have completed the Golden Slam in quad singles,” said Andy.

Some of the other impressive designs to come out of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications include customised handlebar extensions with fully integrated electronic gear shifts for triathletes. Instead of mechanical cables to change gears on their bicycles, Australian triathletes have customised electronic actuators.  At Tokyo 2021, Australia was the only country to have electronic gear shift buttons custom integrated into triathletes’ bicycles.

“We also made custom handlebar extensions, enabling athletes to be in the best aerodynamic position for longer. Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications means we can continue to be on the forefront of sports engineering, especially when it comes to the Olympics and Paralympics,” said Andy.

Improving equipment design and development

One of the key requirements of designing sporting equipment for elite athletes is that the equipment must be perfect not only for the task at hand but also for the individual athlete using it.

“SOLIDWORKS allows us to design and deliver solutions for many of the extremely specific challenges that athletes and coaches can experience. With the software’s design capabilities we can create customised sporting equipment that not only helps athletes perform better but also reduces the risk of injuries,” said Andy.

“For example, we were able to produce 3D printed custom pistol grips for Rio De Janeiro gold medallist Chloe Esposito,” he said.

The pistol grip went through three design levels and two iterations to achieve better response to stimuli and better contouring. According to Andy, Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications’ ease of use and 3D printing capabilities meant the team was able to reach the desired outcome for the gold medallist far earlier than they otherwise would have.

The custom pistol grip also speaks to one of the greatest strengths of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications – its frequent updates.

“With the texture release, we were able to model not only the structure of the piece but what it would feel like. This was very useful for adapting our design to factors like sweat and wet weather,” said Andy.

Further, Andy notes that Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications is intuitive to learn. “When new functions are released, everyone in our teams picks them up quickly. It’s an incredibly intuitive and user-friendly software,” he said.

With the Australia’s elite athletes based all over the country, Dassault Systèmes’ networked licence manager has also played an important role in helping Andy and his team support Australian sports.

“The networked licence manager means the AIS team can access our designs from any computer, anywhere. The fact that we don’t have to assign each licence to a specific machine is ideal for us as we often travel to support our athletes. Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS applications means we are able to give athletes and coaches the same high quality of support wherever they are based,” said Andy.

Better and more positive results

“Athletes love the comfort we can achieve when we use their scanned data to fit their equipment to them. And because there’s a digital copy of the data, we can remanufacture parts for spares or when they need replacing,” said Andy.

“With SOLIDWORKS, we have engineering and design capabilities that other countries simply don’t have,” he said, summing up the value of the software.

“We get a great deal satisfaction from the positive feedback that athletes and coaches give us. And SOLIDWORKS is part of that.”

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