We've seen a few examples of 3D printing in the bicycle industry and the possibilities that it could hold for the future. Back in January, 2014, Flying Machine, a small company based in Perth, Australia, revealed a titanium bike that features eight titanium "lugs" printed by the CSIRO. In the same period, Empire Cycles and Renishaw made the world's first 3D printed metal bike frame.
If you are really into cycling, you would love the idea of making your own frame and being able to add whatever custom geometry and extras to your bike. That future is not far, basically it is already here.This week an Australia-based industrial designer has brought an awesome project to the world: a redesigned, custom-fit, 3D printed bike frame that you have never seen before: beautiful mesh texture, light weight, accommodated LED lighting in the rear for safety, the designer's name included within the structure of the frame!
The project was the brainchild of industrial designer, university lecturer, researcher, and 3D Printing enthusiast James Novak.Like a lot of creative people Novak was always searching for something more: "something that I could really sink my teeth into and get excited about," he said.
After completing degrees in Architecture and Product Design, Novak has spent a number of years working on a few relatively high profile projects in Brisbane, Australia. An opportunity came unexpectedly this year when he was invited to return to Griffith University as a lecturer. "It is a great opportunity to share my skills with up and coming designers, but what really blew my mind was seeing a lab full of 3D printers in all shapes and sizes." he said.
"So alongside my teaching, I've taken up an Honours program to allow me to play with all these toys, and am working towards starting a PhD next year focused on additive manufacturing for sporting products."
Hence the 3D printed bike frame. Novak's Honours research is looking into the potential for additive manufacturing to be used as the final manufacturing method (as opposed to simply a prototyping tool) for bicycles, in particular the frame.
"What I really wanted to achieve was something that takes full advantage of the benefits of 3D printers, especially the ability to create one-off, customizable pieces that may be lighter-weight and stronger than traditional frames through the use of complex lattice structures." Novak said.
"In the future if a professional athlete were to similarly have a bike shaped perfectly to suit their riding style, rather than fitted using a range of expensive (and heavy) adjustable components, they will be able to radically improve their performance."
"More than anything I'd like the work to be an example of what we should be 3D printing."Indeed. The bike has been designed to take advantage of this amazing technology and modeled to fully fit Novak's body proportions. Novak said that he spent approximately 150 hours modeling this particular model in 3D on SolidWorks over a couple of weeks.
"Surprisingly it wasn't the 3D modeling that was most difficult, but I think what has taken the most time and energy is discovering what is possible using 3D printers, and then taking a step back from the bike and trying to re-imagine what is possible." Novak explained.
"The frame you see pictured is the culmination of 4 months of experimentation, research and testing, and still has a long way to go. In the scheme of things, modeling this particular design was nothing, it's the process of getting there that is the real challenge.
"You almost need to reprogram your way of thinking when using additive manufacturing, as the old limitations of tooling etc. no longer apply, yet there are new limitations like build size and layer thickness to understand."The bike frame was 3D printed in paintable resin
through 3D printing company i.materialise, using mammoth-stereolithography
technology. The whole part was constructed layer by layer in a liquid polymer that hardens when struck by a laser beam.
Each time, the model is lowered and the next layer is then drawn directly on top of the previous one. This is repeated until the model is finished. It took only one or two days to complete the whole frame, with some other models too.
After printing and assembly, the bike was exhibited at a seminar in Brisbane, Australia this past July and received some great feedback from visitors. The bike will also be shown in an art gallery on the Gold Coast from 16 August - 12 September."A lot of great ideas for the future have come from my experimentation so far, and I'm planning to launch a website selling some of these once I get through my studies. The site will be called edditive.com and will hopefully feature the final resolved fixie frame for sale in the future." James Novak said.