WAAM 2015 prints out a bicycle

3D printers have been used to create everything from jewelry to canal houses in recent years. Why not a bicycle as well? This was a question that was recently asked (and answered) by a group of international students at TU Delft.

Ainoa Areso Rossi (Civil Engineering and Geosciences), Joost Vreeken (Industrial Design Engineering), Stef de Groot (Industrial Design Engineering) and Sjoerd van de Velde (Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering) joined exchange student Harry Anderson from RMIT Australia on a project that involved printing a bicycle using a new facility located in Amsterdam. Their collaboration began in January when the group met with their adviser, Doctor Jouke Verlinden from the IO department, and the decision was made to design a bicycle frame.

In the months that followed, the group, which served as the 2015 edition of Wire and Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM), received pointers from designers at MX3D, a company located at Amsterdam’s NSDM Wharf that researches and develops robotic 3D print technology.

The project proved challenging for the group and they often had conflicting concepts for what could and could not be achieved. ‘For the design of the splines we had two different ideas,’ Ainoa wrote on WAAM 2015’s blog last summer. ‘One was to make it more organic-like and the other to make the splines look more like polygonal shapes. It was important to make a decision for this, as developing two individual models would be too time consuming. In the end we chose the organic splines, but we were happy with either.’

The group’s bicycle was later printed at the new 3D Building FieldLab in Amsterdam. Comprised of stainless steel, the frame itself is both lightweight and surprisingly strong. The bicycle was also demonstrated by Dr. Verlinden at Manufuture 2015, a bi-annual design conference that was held in Luxembourg in late November.

‘This bike is, to my knowledge, the first complete 3D printed metal bicycle,’ Dr. Verlinden said in a recent university press release.

While the project remains an experiment at this stage, one day designers may be able to use this concept to create heavily customised bicycles that are easier to manufacture and cheaper for consumers than more conventional models.

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