TE Con­nec­tiv­ity makes load-bear­ing pro­duc­tion parts

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE -

UN­VEILED at Rapid 2015 in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, TE Con­nec­tiv­ity’s ex­er­cise in 3D print­ing demon­strates the abil­ity to de­sign a mo­tor­cy­cle on a com­puter, print it in plas­tic, add tyres and a mo­tor, then take it for a spin. While the re­sult may not quite be ready to hit the high­way, the con­cept is still noth­ing short of ex­cit­ing.

Con­sid­er­ing that fun­da­men­tal parts such as the frame and wheel bear­ings are en­tirely printed in plas­tic, one would agree that TE’s goal to show that the tech­nol­ogy can be used to man­u­fac­ture load-bear­ing pro­duc­tion parts has been achieved. Mod­elled in a Har­ley-David­son Sof­tail fash­ion, the mo­tor­cy­cle mea­sures around 2,4 m long, weighs 113,4 kg and con­sists of more com­po­nents than its de­sign­ers can ac­count for. Its frame, printed af­ter a process of trial and er­ror, can sup­port a to­tal of 181 kg.

Apart from the small elec­tric mo­tor and tyres, some other out­sourced parts in­clude the brak­ing sys­tem, elec­tri­cal wiring, bat­tery, belt drive, mir­rors, side stand and some bolts.

The high­light is, of course, its fully func­tion­ing sta­tus. A small one hp (750 W) elec­tric mo­tor can power a 24 km/h ride for sev­eral min­utes. Though this may not sound ground­break­ing, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need a big­ger bat­tery or a stronger en­gine to make a point as a show bike at a con­fer­ence on print­ing, scan­ning and ad­di­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing. All that mat­ters is that, af­ter some 1 000 work hours and $25 000 (R300 000), TE Con­nec­tiv­ity has come up with a proper mo­tor­cy­cle in­deed.

The main load-bear­ing parts were con­structed with fused de­po­si­tion mod­el­ling tech­nol­ogy, the process of in­ject­ing layer upon layer of ABS (acry­loni­trile bu­ta­di­ene styrene) plas­tic en­riched with the heat-re­sis­tant resin Ul­tem 9085. With this process, TE printed sev­eral parts with com­plex dy­namic prop­er­ties, such as the frame. The wheel bear­ings sound tricky to fab­ri­cate, es­pe­cially the rear one that was printed into a sin­gle piece with the hub and the drive sprocket. Af­ter some testing, both bear­ings re­port­edly held up against the load they must bear and the heat gen­er­ated in the process. Equally dif­fi­cult work has prob­a­bly been in­volved in the fab­ri­ca­tion of the wheel rims, which have to sup­port real mo­tor­cy­cle tyres with fully in­flated tubes. — Giz­


(ABOVE and LEFT) The 3D-printed mo­tor­cy­cle, on dis­play. The V2 block is just a plas­tic mockup, the real mo­tor is hid­den in the fake ‘oil tank’ be­hind it.

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