Redesigned Speedo racing swimsuit ready for 2012 London Olympics


July 9, 2012

A free-surface simulation of the forces experienced when diving helped in the design of Speedo's Fastskin3 racing system (Image: ANSYS/Speedo)

A free-surface simulation of the forces experienced when diving helped in the design of Speedo's Fastskin3 racing system (Image: ANSYS/Speedo)

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Speedo's introduction of its drag reducing LZR Racer swimming outfit created a controversy during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The suit worked so well that it was subsequently outlawed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) as the technological equivalent of doping – it provided too much of an advantage. Now, with the help of ANSYS simulation software, and just in time for the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Speedo has introduced the Fastskin3 racing system, which offers a new and apparently legal approach to drag reduction during competitive swimming.

Rather than specify a standard suit, or possibly special materials from which a suit must be made for international competition, FINA decided to limit the portion of the body that could be covered. For men, this was from the waist to the knees, and for women, from the shoulder to the knee. Their intent was to prevent the design of performance-enhancing suits such as the Speedo LZR Racer, but the restriction was so narrow that it simply required that a different optimization process be carried out.

The result is Speedo's Fastskin3 Racing System. When worn as a complete system of suit, cap, and goggles, passive drag, which impedes gliding while submerged, is reduced by up to 16.6 percent, and the amount of oxygen needed by the swimmer at a given speed is reduced by up to ten percent. Finally, active body drag, resulting from the waves that the swimmer creates, the swimmer's constantly changing shape and the force of the water passing over the body's surface, is reduced by as much as 5.2 percent.

Development of the racing system relied on expanded multiphysics simulations that included both fluid dynamics and structural mechanics. For example, the shape of the cap was optimized for low drag and turbulence, as were the effect of using a range of materials and construction techniques to insure that the caps will withstand the stresses of competitive swimming.

Fastskin3 Cap (right) with hair management system shapes hair for significantly improved hydrodynamics (Image: ANSYS/Speedo)

The simulations also examined how the cap, goggles, and suit interact with each other, so that the overall design is of a system whose components not only have individual characteristics, but also support each others' operation to improve overall performance. Following the design work, Speedo arranged for pool tests of Fastskin3 prototypes by professional U.S. swimmers, including Natalie Coughlin, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.

"Engineering simulation has been absolutely critical in launching this world-first concept," said Tom Waller, head of Speedo's in-house global research and development facility. "For the first time, competitive swimmers can use a cohesive, hydrodynamic solution that will help them cut through the water with maximum efficiency. In developing the Fastskin Racing System, ANSYS software gave us the confidence that our designs would perform as expected in the real world – and saved us a huge amount of resources that we would otherwise have had to invest in physical testing."

But one factor ANSYS cannot simulate is FINA's reaction to the new design – will Speedo's Fastskin3 system also be outlawed? The Olympic results will likely be a key factor in their decision.

Source: ANSYS

Product pages: Men, Women

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

This suit is unfair competition ... a ban is inevitable


This is the Olympics... why doesn't everyone have the best possible equipment? That's like claiming body suits for skiiers should be illegal or super light track shoes. All other swimmers just need to up their equipment game... and why wouldn't they? Its the only way to improve speed without training harder.

Impeding technology is ass backwards.


Why unfair.... Technology develops... Speedo create minimal swimmers a long time ago, and have been developing tech since (often with dubious benefits)

Until FINA issue the swimmers with an Authorised and regulated one type swim suit there will be organisations trying to do better...

AS long as the suits are available for all swimmers irrespective of their affiliation, there is no competitive advantage...

As racing is said to improve the breed... Bans by Regulatory authorities are merely trying to protect the status-quo. Great use of ANSYS.

If we want one type racing, have them all compete in the buff "as they were born".

Same with track and field, while ever athletes are allowed to wear shoes, companies will be improving on shoe over the next....

Advertising can be tattooed on their flanks, it will be a memento of their representation of their country in the Great Olympic games.... (oh no, then we will have pharmaceutical skin improvements and hair loss regimes to reduce drag.....)


"why doesn't everyone have the best possible equipment?" Well cost for one thing! I bet they wont be offering free suits for all competitors. Strange how they have managed to get this ready "just" in time for the Olympics isn't it.


The suits, like lrz are not using any electronics or motorised propulsion. There just well designed using cutting edge technology. In no way should they be made illegal. In the Olympics, every one comes at their best and with their best. The fact that a company can come up with such technology in a passive design should be commended and this should be encouraged for better and better. Plus, the advantage gained is only for the high performance individuals of the Olympics themselves because suits are designed at the Olympic speeds models. Everyone Olympian can obtain the suit and it would not be an unfair advantage. This is wrong.

Dawar Saify

Why don't they just have everyone wearing the same thing? It's about the human body and how it performs after all, not what great new technology there is.

In reply to some comments: a) Technology is not being impeded here. All these advances will have commercial values outside of the game. It's not like it's outlawed from the entire Earth. b) No, not everyone will have access to it. In theory, yes if the poorer athletes really want they can probably go through all the trouble to raise the money. That by itself is creating unequal situations when it's not necessary. c) Again, body performance, not technologies. Banning doping is the same concept. d) Just because some other sports is not as vigilant in creating equal playing field, it has nothing to do with this one. Creating exploitable situations for the sake of consistency is silly.

Calvin k

" This is the Olympics... why doesn't everyone have the best possible equipment? "

Umm - the reason is because this IS the Olympics. Not F1 or some other modern thingy.

The whole POINT is person against person. This is not a science competition guys!!!

I say go back to the original solution to all this... make everyone compete nude.

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