The electric Zeus 8 motorcycle, representing the culmination of an ongoing, dynamic collaboration between Curtiss (Leeds, AL) and Fast Radius (Chicago, IL), will be hitting the market in 2020. Not only should this contemporary bike catch the attention of motorcycle buffs, but also high-tech enthusiasts with a fascination regarding the impacts 3D printing and additive manufacturing are having on a wide range of industries worldwide.
The Zeus 8 is comprised of more than 60 parts created via ‘legacy’ and AM processes. The streamlined, futuristic design is enticing, but the quality offered by progressive production methods make this machine especially unique, offering some of the most classic benefits of 3D printing, beginning with the potential to fabricate more complex geometries—and some that may have not been possible before via more conventional methods of manufacturing. Affordability often plays a major role too, along with access to a variety of alternative materials that are stronger and lighter in weight—making 3D printing very attractive not just for car and motorcycle parts but also for critical components in other applications like aerospace.
The Zeus 8 was supposed to be on the market by mid-summer of last year but in using a traditional middleman providing CNC methods for manufacturing, there were significant holdups in delivery. While that presented a challenge for the team at Curtiss, they were not willing to give up on their own stringent requirements for quality and design of large-scale, distinctive parts.
“Our partnership with Curtiss is ideal because it allows them to do what they do best—designing stunning motorcycles, while we do what we do best—matching the project with the right manufacturing technologies and getting parts made quickly and efficiently,” said Brian Simms, vice president of sales at Fast Radius, the partners responsible for additive manufacturing of parts. “With the Zeus 8, we’re achieving first-pass yields of more than 96%.”
The Fast Radius team began partnering with Curtiss for optimization of production and parts, still using five-axis milling for some of the bigger components but employing hybrid legacy and additive manufacturing for smaller pieces. Parts were created and delivered in just twelve days.
“The original ribbing in the bike’s neck, for example, which was intended to create small spaces that would reduce weight, was eliminated because it would be almost impossible to manufacture,” says Fast Radius project lead, Brian Coil. “We came up with an alternative that took out the ribs while still taking out the weight. Another innovation was the hard-edged bottom of the bike, which was made using electrical discharge machining—the biggest application of the technology that I’ve ever seen. We also used additive manufacturing for the bike’s fenders.”
The Zeus 8 offers other unique features such as:
- Monocoque structural skin connected to the chromoly steel framework at the neck
- Strength in materials such as chromium and molybdenum (more powerful than 1020 steel)
- V8-style battery cylinders for power
“Bringing Zeus’ advanced design to life wasn’t easy,” said H. Matthew Chambers, CEO and chairman of the board for Curtiss. “We knew we needed a partner like Fast Radius that could innovate with us, not just make the parts. Their best-in-class manufacturing approach and operational efficiencies will also enable us to deliver our next model—the Zeus 9—on time, satisfying the strong demand from our global audience.
“Downloading a lot of our engineering problems to Fast Radius allows us to stay focused and lowers our fixed overhead costs, and they can scale manufacturing for us,” explains Chambers. “This is the future for small batch manufacturing.”
This is just the beginning for both companies as they already have plans to keep working on refining the motorcycle over time, along with other models coming up—bearing striking names also such as Hades, Psyche, and Eros.
“Fast Radius can get us the best parts with the shortest lead times, but that’s not the only reason we partner with them,” says Chambers. “We work with them because they push us toward the cutting edge of manufacturing technology. We’re creating the most advanced motorcycles the world has ever seen, and Fast Radius is committed to making our vision a reality.
The automotive industry has been using 3D printing and automotive to their advantage for decades now, and with little publicity regarding such manufacturing until it began to hit the mainstream and receive such overwhelming attention from the public. A variety of different motorcycles have been produced with the innovative use of metal, generative design, and even sleek new builds that are completely 3D printed.
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