When it was invented nearly two hundred years ago, the bicycle quickly became one of the most important inventions that the quickly modernizing world had ever seen. The first bicycle was made of wood and had nod but rather relied on the rider’s feet to push it along. While it most certainly would have been a strange sight back in 1817, the Draisienne was only the inspiration for what was to come. When an inventor in the 1860’s gave the bicycle a metal frame, added pedals and a mechanical crank drive the race was on, and subsequent versions of the bicycle would become an enormously popular mode of transportation all over the world.
The bicycle’s continued development would eventually lead to inventions that would take the industrial revolution from steam power to the combustion engine. Several components vital to the development of the automobile such as chain-driven sprockets, tension-spoked wheels, pneumatic tires and ball bearings were all developed for the bicycle first. But the basic design wouldn’t really change much from that point forward. Certainly geared drives and hand brakes would make them even more reliable, but they were still made from the same metal parts and the materials used to construct them, and would change very little for nearly a century.
But Italian design studio Eurocompositi is trying to change the way that we make our bicycles by changing the materials that we use to make them. Rather than a standard machined metal frame, Eurocompositi has designed a functional proof-of-concept 3D printed mountain bike frame called Bhulk. As part of the Aenimal project, the Bhulk bike frame is the first ecological and environmentally sustainable bike. It was printed using biodegradable, recycled and recyclable PLA 3D printing material.
As a 3D printing material derived from renewable, plant-based materials, the Bhulk frame can either be melted down and turned into new 3D printed objects, or simply ground up and composted. And to make it even greener, it takes significantly less energy to 3D print a frame than it would to create a metal bike frame using traditional tooling methods, and it even takes less power than if it was 3D printed using ABS or PET materials. On top of all of that, Eurocompositi’s Aenimal production facility is also solar-powered. They’re probably just showing off at this point, but that makes the Bhulk one of the greenest vehicles ever manufactured.
Because the Bhulk is so green, it was just announced that it will be named as the winner of the 2015 Eurobike Award being given out this week in Friedrichshafen, Germany. For the eleventh year in a row, over five hundred new bicycle products are evaluated by an independent panel of six judges who are experts in bicycle design and manufacturing. A Eurobike Award is one of the most prestigious awards given to companies within the bicycle industry and it is quite a feather in the cap of a business only started four years ago.
The bicycle frame is designed using advanced parametric 3D modeling software and generative algorithms which create unique tube shapes and dimensions that Aenimal says will maintain the required stiffness and durability. And this is achieved using a material that typically wouldn’t have the mechanical characteristics of more advanced composite materials. Each part is 3D printed on an FDM printer individually, and each part, includes slots and joints, making assembly very quick and ultimately sturdy.
There is currently no word on pricing or when exactly the Bhulk frame will go into mass production. However once manufacturing begins, each frame will be made available in twenty different colors to suit the various needs of their customers. You can read more about Aenimal bike frame over on their website, and you can let us know what you think of this on our Bhulk 3D Printed Bike Frame forum at 3DPB.com.