Sponsors: Red Bull and Teijin Aramid
Team Members: Jordan Edmondson, Jamison Knickerbocker, Samantha Chalmers
Wingsuits have remained relatively unchanged for the last decade and athletes are pushing themselves to new flight records, so the industry needs a wingsuit that can perform at higher levels. In partnership with Red Bull and Teijin Aramid, the Wingsuit Redesign team was tasked with optimizing the fabric choices, coating choices, and seam solutions for improved performance of wingsuits. Fabric materials and properties, including air permeability, roughness, strength, weight, durability, and safety were considered.
A 210D ripstop nylon with durable water repellent, UV resistant, and polyurethane coatings is the benchmark fabric currently used in wingsuits. Over time, the wingsuit’s performance decreases due to this fabric’s low durability and increasing air permeability through the fabric and seams.
While trying to improve durability and reduce permeability with a new fabric and coating, surface roughness was a critical property that still needed to be minimized for low drag forces on the wingsuit. Our team was determined to have a working wind tunnel to take drag force measurements on the fabrics, however, challenges with it led the team to explore other options in parallel. The team used TAC7 imaging for a subjective method of determining surface roughness along with slip angle tests for a numerical comparison. Coatings were applied to the three fabric constructions and underwent tensile, tear, and air permeability testing, as well as TAC7 imaging for surface roughness. Seam coatings and tape were applied to wingsuit seam samples and underwent tensile, air permeability, and thickness testing.
Each phase of testing allowed the team to make justifications on what fabric, coating, and seam solution would be the optimal combination, and a final prototype was created. The final prototype for an updated wingsuit material was a polyester/technora ripstop twill weave, with an updated coating, and with seam tape. The modifications to the fabric work together to create an impermeable, durable, and strong wingsuit material.