SHELLBELL think refine

ShellBell – Designing training kit for lifting heavy artillery

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As part of endurance training exercises, soldiers are required to carry cumbersome artillery shells – with a key prerogative: don’t drop them.

Artillery shells are not only heavy, weighing in at a minimum of 15kg, but the projectile’s form is designed to slip through the air, not to be easy to handle.

Design agency Think Refine worked to design a specialist weight-training device to help soldiers build up the balance and specific set of muscles required to take on the challenge of handling an artillery shell.

SHELLBELL breakdown think refine
The ShellBell was 3D printed by Ricoh 3D in PA12 using HP MJF to allow the designers to iterate on its design

Extra features were added to the ShellBell to enhance the customary shell silhouette, with Think Refine including an integrated handle to make the form easier to manoeuvre when not being used for training.

The additional benefit of this and extra finger grips adds appeal to gyms and exercise classes looking to add something fresh to their fitness training equipment.

To progress the design, Think Refine needed a functional prototype for user testing without the financial outlay of expensive tooling and moulds.

The prototype had to be large enough to replicate an artillery shell and strong enough to be filled with 15kg of sand.


Working with Ricoh 3D, the teams created a functional prototype that could be 3D printed, with the team at Ricoh 3D able to tweak and optimise the design so that the grips were more ergonomic and robust.

Ricoh 3D used its HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printers to produce the large prototypes, the mechanical properties of binder jetted PA12 materials being close enough to the final moulded material.

The prototype ShellBell was strong enough to be filled with the sand, and was manufactured, quality assured and shipped within five working days thanks to the fast turnaround achievable with additive manufacturing.

Think Refine design director Grant Riley explains that the project will include 10-20 prototype iterations by the time the ShellBell is ready for full testing and validation with the military and CrossFit enthusiasts

“Ricoh’s quick response to technical questions and instant order system made them the natural choice for this project. Their team recommended PA12 as the best choice for ShellBell prototyping and the inherent grey colour proved very useful for analysing surfaces, without the need for post processing.

“We’re excited to gather user feedback and show these models to potential buyers, before moving into tooling and moulding.”

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