Some people fantasize about having their own 3D printers and making everything on them. That’s been the hype, after all (albeit a hype that’s fading) – that everyone will have their own 3D printer and simply make what they need, saving them all kinds of money. Need a new screwdriver? 3D print one. Need a new bike? 3D print one! While 3D printed bikes exist, they’re proof of the fact that 3D printed does not necessarily mean cheaper. Take the 3D printed e1 electric bike from Kinazo, for example. The bike costs €20,000, which is more than some cars.

Kinazo, based in Slovakia, came up with the idea for the e1 back in 2011. They wanted to create an electric bike with an integrated battery in the frame and its own system of controlling the electronics through a mobile application. They also wanted it to be customizable. 3D printing made sense as a means of production, as it would allow for the frame to be produced in one piece and for each one to be custom-produced.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Kinazo didn’t have a 3D printer big enough for printing a bike frame in one piece, however, so they turned to Volkswagen Slovakia, which happens to have one of the largest metal 3D printers in the world: a Concept Laser X LINE 2000R. With a build area of 800 x 400 x 500 mm, the machine was big enough to 3D print the bike’s frame. Volkswagen normally uses the printer for automotive components.

“Thanks to the innovative possibilities of 3D printing, with the use of globally the biggest 3D printer, we produce for sectors all over the world: prototypes, small series, components, as well as tools and appliances,” said Jens Kellerbach, board member for Volkswagen Slovakia finances.

The bike was prototyped in aluminum, and will be a limited release  – not that many can afford the steep price tag. As the cost of 3D printing goes down, however, so will the cost of the bike, Kinazo said. The current model weighs about 20 kilograms, including the engine and the battery, and it’s tough, designed for racers or people who enjoy cycling in mountainous conditions.

In addition to allowing for customization, as well as enabling the frame to be created in one piece, 3D printing, according to Kinazo, optimized the active weight, geometry and several technical parameters while reducing cost and time. The project took several years, as it was a complex concept, but once manufacturing started, there were no delays.

It may be unrealistic to think that everyone will be 3D printing their own bikes at home one day, but 3D printed bicycles and motorcycles have begun to make an appearance. Sculpteo debuted a 3D printed bike at CES 2017 earlier this year, and colorFabb  3D printed a racing bike on a desktop printer. There are plenty of other examples of 3D printed bicycles and parts, but in terms of fanciness – and a fancy price tag – Kinazo’s tech-heavy e1 may top them all.

If you’re one of those who can afford the price tag, you can let Kinazo know of your interest here. And if you buy one, please do let the rest of us know what it’s like.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: The Slovak Spectator / Images: TASR unless otherwise noted]

 

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