Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Printed Electric Motorcycle from APWorks Looks Fragile, but It’s Deceptively Strong

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apworksIt seems as though spring just started (or didn’t, if you live in Ohio where it SNOWS IN THE MIDDLE OF MAY), but we’re already only a month away from the official start of summer. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Today, mercifully, is a lovely one, and I have my window open and am listening to the lovely spring sounds of birds – and motorcycles. ‘Tis the season; the roads are filling up with bikers, and the bars are announcing their weekly or monthly bike nights. Stop by a particular eatery or watering hole on a Wednesday night, and you’re likely to see a forest of motorcycles of every make, model and color filling up the parking lot.

Well – maybe not every model. APWorks, a subsidiary of Airbus Group, has developed a motorcycle the likes of which haven’t been seen before. The Light Rider is a 3D printed electric motorbike which, weighing in at just 35 kg (77 lbs), is about 30% lighter than most conventional e-motorcycles. It certainly performs, too – the Light Rider is capable of going from 0 to 80 km per hour in seconds and can travel close to 60 km between charges.

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The bike was printed in APWorks’ proprietary Scalmalloy material, an aluminum alloy that is resistant to corrosion and nearly as strong as titanium. The key to the Light Rider’s light weight is its hollow frame, which was produced via selective laser melting and looks like a fragile, silvery web. It’s anything but fragile, though; the bike is capable of withstanding as much weight and stress as any ordinary motorcycle.

ee8ba9_ed708b456ec64202bae34631acdefbaa-mv1“The complex and branched hollow structure couldn’t have been produced using conventional production technologies such as milling or welding,” said Joachim Zettler, CEO of Airbus APWorks GmbH. “Advances in additive layer manufacturing have allowed us to realize the bionic design we envisioned for the motorcycle without having to make any major changes. With these technologies, the limitations facing conventional manufacturing disappear.”

APWorks, like many other successful manufacturers, turned to nature for inspiration when designing the Light Rider. An algorithm was created based on natural structures and growth patterns, resulting in the ultralight but super-strong frame reminiscent of bird bones. The frame itself, in fact, weighs only 6 kg – the majority of the bike’s weight comes from its additional components, including a 6 kW electric motor. According to APWorks, the strength to weight ratio is the same as that of a supercar. Giving off zero emissions, the Light Rider is energy-efficient, eco-friendly, quiet and undoubtedly pleasing to the natural world on which it was based.

ee8ba9_aece18139b5241c3bcb266fe50e321ef-mv1APWorks states that the Light Rider is the world’s first 3D printed motorcycle. I’ve learned that usually when a company says something is the “world’s first” anything, it’s rarely true, especially in the 3D printing world, and that proves to be the case here – we’ve seen a few 3D printed motorcycles ourselves in the past couple of years – but the Light Rider may be the first 3D printed motorcycle to come from such a major, well-known corporation. And it’s certainly unique, and undeniably cool.

Want one? You’ll have to act fast. Right now, APWorks is only releasing a limited number of the bikes – very limited, in fact; there are only 50 available for purchase (available now for pre-order). At €50,000 ($56,095), it’s not cheap, either, but who knows what’ll happen in the future? It might not be too long before these spidery, delicate-looking e-motorbikes are appearing alongside the Harleys at your local Quaker Steak & Lube. Discuss this new technology in the 3D Printed Motorcycle forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Images: APWorks]

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