FIRST BIKE PRINTED IN 3D
TE Connectivity makes load-bearing production parts
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. — Gizmag.com
(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.