Feather or Synthetic Shuttlecock Design to Win the Game?

Every Friday night, I’m playing badminton with a few friends in my village of Perwez in Belgium. Beyond the motivation of staying fit and healthy while having good time, I’m also pushed by the strong desire to defeat my friend and colleague Michel Rochette from our Lyon office. Occasionally, we are organizing international games to challenge each other and so far, the results are very tight. But I now have a winning strategy! 

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Any badminton player knows that a synthetic shuttlecock will fly differently than a feather one. Understanding why would clearly give me an edge. I contacted our partner, Dr. John Hart from Sheffield Hallam University who had run some thorough investigations and done a lot of modeling for this sport.

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Total surface pressure on shuttlecock. Courtesy John Hart, Sheffield Hallam University

Referring to some of the work his team has done, he explained that the swirling nature of the air flow around the shuttlecocks can be illustrated by these blue air flow line helping to understand how the shape of the shuttle can cause flow separation and swirl. The shape of the feather shuttlecock, with its angled and overlapped vanes, channels the air causing a strong swirling motion. In contrast the flow lines are observed to pass through the porous skirt of the synthetic shuttlecock, which induces only a small swirling motion. The feather shuttlecock will experience a higher degree of spin than the synthetic one, what is in agreement with my own experience during the play.

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Flow lines passing a feather and synthetic shuttlecock Courtesy John Hart, Sheffield Hallam University

Beyond the very nice picture this investigation is generating (such as the flow field behind this feather shuttlecock shown below) or the possible edge I can gain to win my games, this reveals how powerful engineering simulation could be useful for virtually any product or activity we are doing. I cannot agree anymore when I hear clients saying this is beyond the scope of simulation or that simulation will bring nothing for a specific when I see the additional knowledge it is bringing for a product as unusual as a shuttlecock . Most of the time these people don’t see the potential value computer base modeling could give them although I can understand that, sometimes, the investment in simulation is not fully worth it yet.

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Flow field behind a feather shuttlecock. Courtesy John Hart, Sheffield Hallam University

Just like for many industries in the past, I am convinced that engineering simulation has started to revolutionize the way sport is done and will be done. We are seeing it for swimming and cycling, stadium design and sailing, ski and tennis, to mention a few. I’ve listed some articles about these other areas of sports engineering that you may want to read below. But this is just the beginning. The next Olympics will greatly benefit from engineering simulation for sport!

Well, to be beautiful, sport must be fair. So finally, let me share with all of you a recent white paper entitled Dramatic Changes in Sports: The Contribution of Engineering Simulation and invite you to our Sports Webinar Series starting on May 4th with a special focus on racket sports.

Additional resources:

Dress for Success : Engineers at Speedo utilize ANSYS to develop the Speedo Fastskin Racing System (PDF)

Floating on Air:  David Higgins, Product Design Engineer, Avanti Bikes, and Larisa Marsh, Director, Dynamic Sports Engineering (DSE)
Auckland, New Zealand talk about a new racing bike designed with ANSYS CFD. (PDF)

Dry Run: By Bert Blocken, Professor; Twan van Hooff, Ph.D. Student; and Marjon van Harten, M.Sc. Student, Eindhoven University of Technology Eindhoven, The Netherlands showing how simulating wind and rain around a stadium determines the best design for keeping spectators dry. (PDF)

Charting a Confident Course: By Nick Hutchins, CFD Engineer Emirates Team New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand – Engineers at Emirates Team New Zealand rely on CFD from ANSYS to optimize sail performance. (PDF)

As We Say Goodbye to Sochi …Modeling Rossignol ski bindings with ANSYS (blog post)

Good Vibrations: By Stefan Mohr, R&D Manager, Predevelopment HEAD Sport GmbH, Kennelbach, Austria shows how HEAD Sport delivers world-leading tennis racket performance with simulation. (PDF)