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The founders of the startup FreeKickPro joined forces with a Actemium business unit with expertise in Electronic Design and Manufacturing to design an automated free kick training system that simulates the conditions of a real match.

Generations of soccer players have trained by taking free kicks against a row of static mannequins. This method has hardly changed over the years and has obvious limitations. But how to most closely recreate real soccer match conditions?

This is the question that the Dutch startup FreeKickPro has tried to answer with its automated free kick training system. It designed a machine that allows players to train in real match conditions with four, five or six dummy players, which can be freely adjusted to different heights and jumping capabilities.

“Clubs that have adopted FreeKickPro® are already reporting improved match-day performance.”

For support, FreeKickPro approached Actemium, the VINCI Energies business unit based in Uden in the Netherlands to develop the FreeKickPro® control system (software and onboard hardware).

“We started development on the project in late 2020 and completed it a year-and-a-half later,” says Stijn Martens, Project Manager Engineering at Actemium, who coordinated the project. Mechanical design and production, and development of the iPad application, were managed by another provider.

Numerous challenges to overcome

To make this unconventional project a success, Actemium had to overcome a number of challenges. As Stijn Martens explains, “One of the main problems in developing the robot was the high current required to make six mannequins jump simultaneously.” The solution? “We had to find a battery capable of supplying a high current that also had a long operational life.”

The Actemium team also had to ensure that the robot’s jumping motions were true to those of real players. “We spent a long time measuring and testing and then implementing software and hardware adjustments.”

One final obstacle to overcome: wireless control of the robot via an iPad application with sufficient range and adequate response times. “We basically needed to ensure optimal communication between the iPad app and the robot, without compromising operating distance or responsiveness.”

©Charlène Fotografie

Purchased by several clubs

This project drew on a wide range of expertise from, from power electronics, actuators and onboard software to developing electronic hardware and wiring looms.

“We also contributed to getting the product certified and implementing standardised testing for large-scale production,” says Stijn Martens. “Once the development phase was complete, we produced the electronics in-house at our site in Uden.”

Several professional soccer clubs have adopted FreeKickPro® for their training sessions. “These clubs are already reporting improved match-day performance.”