3D Printed Bike
Scientists in Bristol have successfully created the world’s first 3D printed bike. The fully working bike is printed using nylon and is as strong as more commonly used materials like steel and aluminium, but weighs 65% less.
Named the Airbike, the 3D printed bike can be designed and printed to the users specifications. This means no adjustment and no conventional assembly. The European Aeronautic Defence and Space group in Filton, near Bristol, uses a 3D printing method the makes products from fine powdered nylon, carbon reinforced plastics or metals.
Designed on a computer, the design is sent to the printer which splits the 3D design into layers and then builds them up using the powder. This process is repeated until the final product is complete. This manufacturing process uses about one tenth of the material used in traditional modes of manufacture, vastly reducing waste.
Lead engineer Andy Hawkins said of the process: 'The beauty is that complex designs do not cost any extra to produce. The laser can draw any shape you like. Many unique design features have been incorporated into the Airbike, such as saddle cushioning or the integrated bearings encased within the hubs.'
Printing a bicycle with a 3D printer has numerous benefits:
- The process of 3D printing a bike is much faster than traditional processes.
- Manufacturers can print multiple parts and components at one time without the time consuming and weight increasing practices like welding.
- The bike themselves are lighter and therefore faster.
- Although not a cheaper option currently, as 3D printing becomes more mainstream, the cost of manufacturing bikes will become cheaper.
3D printing is a fast growing industry that is being adopted by many big name brands. Once bigger companies get behind the process of 3D printing, innovations in the technology will increase and so will the availabiltiy of 3D printing services for consumers.