Friday, February 19, 2016

3D Printed Bicycle

Sorry that there hasn't been much on The Retrogrouch this week. And BikeSnobNYC is off for the week, so things are dry all over. MidLife Cycling is still full of new material, so hopefully people have been visiting there. Middle of February blahs, little to read, and weather is probably lousy for riding, too. I've been busy at work this week, where I'm just finishing up another state-mandated teacher evaluation cycle (twice yearly!) that is incredibly time-consuming -- I basically have to justify everything I do, my methods, my materials, techniques and strategies, and prove that I'm effective by providing data and evidence measuring what can't be measured. Oh yeah - and it's tax time again too -- thank god for TurboTax.

Anyhow, I've been seeing quite a bit on the bike industry blogs about this: The 3-D printed ARC Bicycle. Designed by a group of students at the Technical University of Delft, Netherlands, the bike's wire mesh-like frame is constructed by welding robots which built up the frame's structure about one millimeter at a time. It is said that the process took about 100 hours.

The results speak for themselves:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
From what I've read, the whole structure was untouched by human hands until the time came to add the seat-tube clamp, the head tube, dropouts, and bottom bracket. I watched a short video on the project, and it looks to me like a pretty sizeable portion of the frame (the whole cluster around the seatpost, for example) was actually welded on by hand after the fact, but I won't fault them for that.

I do, however, wonder what the point is. Yes, I'm kind of myopic when it comes to applying every possible new technology to bicycles. But I just don't see the benefit. The thing is generally pretty ugly (just my opinion, but I'm entitled to it). It looks almost like what you'd get if you tried to make a bike out of chicken wire, or maybe chain-link fencing. It is mostly made by an automated process that eliminates the intrusion of hand-craftsmanship that I particularly enjoy in a bicycle when I'm not riding it (and while I am riding it too, for that matter). And even though it is mostly an open mesh-like structure, it doesn't save any weight, either. The makers claim that it weighs a little under 20 kg -- which is nearly 44 pounds! No idea what the ride would be like, but I expect that its structure would make it feel pretty dead. Kind of like riding a bridge.

The goal of the project wasn't to create a lightweight bike though. I guess they just wanted to see if it could be done. OK, guys. You did it.

Now pat yourselves on the back.

By the way, as is usually the case with these design exercises, the bike is a fixed-gear machine with no brakes. I still can't figure out why designers keep rolling out high-tech and futuristic urban bike designs that assume nobody needs to stop. Do automakers unveil brakeless concept cars? Hell no. Even if the concept car is a non-functioning mock-up, they'll still put some pretty impressive-looking brakes on it. They're a selling point for cryin' out loud.

Aaaanyhow. . .

There might be one possible benefit to the bike's open wire mesh-like structure. One of the industry-cheerleading blogs suggested that the UCI should pounce on this since there'd be nowhere to hide a motor. Well, there's that. . .

That's all for now.


  1. A lot of 3D printing projects seem pointless to me. I suppose it can be great for prototyping, but I doubt we're going to see mass adoption of home 3D printing.

  2. No brakes? Maybe at 44 pounds, the bike would never move fast enough to need brakes. Then again, with that much mass, if the bike ever got going, perhaps no brake could stop it anyway.

    Oh, those evaluations! No Child Left Behind and Common Core are two of the worst things to happen to education. I feel for you--and the students.