We’ve written about numerous 3D printed bikes over time, from racing models to those made with very unusual materials and even some made in miniature. If you know any serious cyclists, you are probably well aware that they are a bit of a different—and passionate—breed, and they often like to fix, tinker, sometimes even re-engineer their set of wheels. With that said, it’s no surprise that many of them embrace 3D printing.
The use of this new technology in making bikes of all sorts is a great example of how beneficial the process can be for designing and producing custom parts, quickly, affordably, either at the desktop or with the help of an experienced service bureau like Shapeways.
A new Shapeways project featuring the foldable, 3D printed bicycles designed at Montague Bike shows off not only all of the benefits of using 3D printing, but also highlights how the process is evolving for designers and smaller manufacturers, as they are able to lay out their designs and prototypes in plastic and then move on to using one of the most popular processes and materials today—with metal 3D printing. This all melds in with Shapeways, their services, and their new 3D printing aluminum material.
Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, Montague Bikes is a mid-sized company involved in researching, developing, designing, and testing bikes—which they then also distribute. Due to the Shapeways services, they have been able to use 3D printing to speed up production enormously, with the materials just adding to performance and their famous compactness.
“Shapeways has been a tremendous value to us by shortening the lead time from concept to product testing,” said Mark Walker, who is involved with R&D for Montague. “Before, it would take months to CNC complex parts, often to find they did not fit the bill. Now, in a matter of days, Shapeways prints our parts initially in plastic – enabling us to quickly evaluate the form and fit of the concept.”
With the prototype first made in plastic, the company can do some pretty extensive testing, and actually see how riders are able to interact. Walker points out that is a much more effective method than just using CAD/CAE. In being able to evaluate the concept with human interaction and fit and form, they are then able to go on to the next stage much more quickly, where Shapeways prints the foldable bikes in metal.
“Upon validating printed metal parts, depending on the project, we can often go straight to production, skipping CNC altogether,” says Walker.
Being able to use aluminum is a major plus for the company, as they are able to stay very competitive with other companies and produce bikes faster.
“Having the ability to print in aluminum has been tremendous because it accelerates our path to production,” said Walker.
It would seem that the way the Montague Bikes team is able to collaborate with Shapeways is a truly winning formula from development to testing to production—and both speed and quality figure in equally. They are able to get a true feel for how their designs will function and have the best of all worlds in prototyping plastic before going on to metal. Mark mentions that in some cases, they have even been able to weld 3D printed aluminum parts to existing frames in their shop.
“Once ready to print in metal, the nice thing about Shapeways aluminum is that it is DMLS processed, which has enabled us to perform post machining (e.g. tapping threads) as well as welding – in order to evaluate the function of certain parts in the larger context of our bicycles,” states Walker.
As 3D printing offers so much to an industry like that of bicycle manufacture, the way that companies working together have been able to use various materials and processes even more beneficially is quite impressive. Certainly Montague Bikes is a great example for Shapeways to share, as their product is one that is intrinsically versatile—and unique—due to its folding nature which offers cyclists more options in transportation. Dedicated to showing what high quality they can produce in folding bikes, with 3D printed aluminum they are able to add sufficient strength and weight, while still giving the user a quality product they can easily fit into their trunk, train, or store in a closet. Are you surprised to hear that Shapeways can help make these foldable bikes? Discuss in the 3D Printed Aluminum Foldable Bikes forum over at 3DPB.com.