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The ‘Arc Bike’ is a fully functioning work of art and technology.
It seems you can 3D print anything these days. While 3D printed bicycles are not unheard of, any prototype so far made has been made through a sintering process, in which a laser is used to melt steel powder and built it up in layers. This futuristic ride is a whole different animal. A team of university students at the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands has created the world’s first stainless-steel 3D-printed bicycle using a welding technique.
As Gizmag reports, the students worked with Amsterdam-based company MX3D, who aided in the development of the Mataerial 3D printer. Unlike traditional 3D printers, which build up objects horizontally on a flat stage, the Mataerial uses a robotic arm to deposit resin on either a horizontal or vertical surface. The columns of resin quickly harden upon extrusion, which allows for the development of intricate structures which would be impossible with traditional 3D printers.
MX3D recently came out with a new printer, similar to the Mataerial, that works with welded metal instead of resin. It lays down a blob of metal, waits for it to harden, then adds another blob. The technique allows for a unheard-of range of control in the design of the objects being printed. MX3D approached TU Delft about a project to demonstrate the possibilities of the technology, and the bicycle was the result.
“It was important for us to design a functional object that people use everyday,” team member Stef de Groot told Gizmag. “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.”
The bike’s frame was printed in several sections, which were then welded together by hand. The finished product, which they’ve called the Arc Bicycle, weighs roughly the same as a traditional steel frame bicycle and is fully of capable of handling the bumps and bruises of Amsterdam’s cobbled streets.
Hilary Angus is the Online Editor at Momentum Mag. @HilaryAngus