- A bicycle built for … you!
If yours won’t be a stylish
marriage, and you can’t afford a carriage, you could possibly commission a
bicycle built for two – just for you – thanks to a new laser-sintering-based
A prototype bicycle dubbed “Airbike” was created using
additive layer manufacturing, a 3-D printing process that begins with a design on
a computer. A press of the button transforms the design into a physical object through
laser sintering, or melting, of the selected structural material into successive
2-D layers. Images courtesy of EADS.
In Bristol, UK, the European aerospace and defense group EADS
has unveiled a demonstrator model that was “grown” from nylon powder
in a process that allows complete sections of the bicycle – such as the wheels,
bearings and axle – to be built in one piece and to precise user specifications.
The additive layer manufacturing (ALM) process, similar in concept
to 3-D printing, enables a computer design to be transformed into a physical object
at the press of a button. A laser melts successive thin layers of nylon until a
solid, fully formed bicycle emerges. The computer, connected to a machine containing
the powdered structural material, splits the 3-D design of a component into many
2-D layers, and the laser melts the powder into the layers to form the object.
An engineer prepares the control system for laser sintering nylon powder material, part of a process that can “grow” a physical object from a computer design.
“The beauty is that complex designs do not cost any extra
to produce,” said Andy Hawkins, the lead engineer. “The laser can draw
any shape you like, and many unique design features have been incorporated into
the Airbike, such as the auxetic structure to provide saddle cushioning or the integrated
bearings encased within the hubs.” Auxetic structures, which when stretched
become thicker perpendicular to the applied force, offer high energy absorption
and fracture resistance.
The ALM technology can manipulate metals, nylon and carbon-reinforced
plastics at the molecular level, which means it can be used in high-stress, safety-critical
aviation applications. Compared with traditional machined parts, those produced
by ALM are up to 65 percent lighter but just as strong, according to EADS.
Manufactured using a laser-based process, this bicycle is constructed entirely of nylon, except for the tires and drive train.
The demonstrator model features a strong, lightweight integrated
truss structure, a spoke design that mimics the A400M eight-bladed scimitar propeller,
a Kevlar belt for a clean drive system, and embossed text for personalization.
But your own Airbike could be made to your specs – so as
you plan your dream wedding, how would you like your bike?
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