3D printing is quickly progressing among the ranks and is making its way into a myriad of industries. Did you know that 3D printed metal bicycle frames actually exist now? Oh yes, they do, it is no longer a fiction or something will be achieved; it is here and now. Usually these frames are made by making use of a sintering process that utilizes a laser for carrying out selective melting of steel powder and building it up in layers that are successive. That’s amazing and all but a team of students at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands collaborated with the MX3D and used another approach; welding based 3D printing technique.
A quick info-round for all those who are new to 3D printing; MX3D is based in Amsterdam and is a 3D printing company. The stainless steel bike that this collaboration has managed to create is the first of its kind to be created using a 3D printing technique that is based on welding. It has been named as Arc Bicycle and weighs in at almost the same weight as that of a regular steel-framed bike while being sturdy enough to scale the Amsterdam’s cobblestone streets.
MX3D came up with a 3D printer back in 2013 that made use of a robotic arm for building objects by resin deposition on horizontal and vertical surface rather than the conventional ones that only deposit resin on horizontal surface in the form of layers. This printer was called Mataerial 3D. The 3D printed columns of resin could then be curved and joined together while they were being extruded following quick hardening that allowed the creators to make creations of modern art. MX3D used the same model for the creation of a 3D printer that is capable of making metal objects in midair without requiring any support and being capable of extending them in any direction. This printer works by depositing blobs of metal, molten of course, and then allowing them to harden before the next blob is added. Using this approach the 3D printer is capable of creating huge and complex structures.
In fact, it is already using this approach for building a pedestrian bridge. MX3D approached TU Delft about discussing the opportunity for building something that would exhibit the potential of their multi-axis 3D printer and the Arc Bicycle is the result. The frame of the bike was crafted in multiple main sections that were then welded into one another by hand.
Harry Anderson of the Arc Bicycle Team said, “3D printing has exploded in popularity in the last decade, but for those wanting to print medium- to large-scale objects, there are still significant limitations in the technology. This method of 3D printing makes it possible to produce medium to large scale metal objects with almost total form freedom.”
Another team member, Stef de Groot said that it was crucial that we designed a functional object that people can relate to and make use of every day. He further adds, “Being students in the Netherlands, a bicycle naturally came to mind. A bicycle frame is a good test for the technology because of the complex forces involved.” Check out the video below to see the bike in action!