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College of Engineering / Dean's Report / other-stories / Custom Printed Athletic Braces

Custom Printed Athletic Braces

When Michael Zabala, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, started 3D printing highly customized braces for Auburn football players in 2019, the players and athletics trainers loved them and word got out. Now, that favor has turned into a startup business — XO Armor — with a home in Auburn University’s New Venture Accelerator. 

“It’s very difficult to 3D print strong materials. It’s traditionally been one of the most difficult parts of pursuing 3D printing technology, but that’s something we’ve figured out how to do,” Zabala told the Opelika-Auburn News. “We’re able to give these guys stuff that’s not only perfectly customized to their body shape, but it’s also extremely strong and can withstand all the abuse that it would see during the season.”

Athletes can choose their gear, scan their bodies with the XO Armor app and receive customized protective equipment. The company also provides the option of putting 3D printers onsite in athletic training facilities for a faster turnaround time. XO Armor recently signed its first customer outside of Auburn University, another high-profile Division 1 athletics program, with this onsite model.

The XO Armor team has created customized braces for athletes in sports ranging from football to soccer to lacrosse. And interest in the company continues to grow from other collegiate and even professional athletic programs. 

“The athletes like the feel and fit of the pads. The custom fit technology allowed the pads to be very inconspicuous under padding or clothing,” said Robbie Stewart, Auburn’s head football athletic trainer. “I believe this technology is something that can be used at every level of athletics for prevention and protection from injury.”