Print­ing molten metal

Dutch stu­dents test first 3D stain­less steel bike on cob­bles

The Witness - Wheels - - BIKING - AL­WYN VILJOEN • al­wyn. viljoen@ wit­ness. co. za

NOT con­tent with hav­ing de­vel­oped the world’s first road le­gal, fully so­lar- pow­ered car, called Stella Lux, stu­dents at the Delft Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy ( TU Delft) in the Nether­lands have now cre­ated the world’s first stain­less steel bike us­ing a 3D print­ing ro­bot.

Leader of the five mem­bers, Harry An­der­son, an in­dus­trial de­sign stu­dent from RMIT univer­sity in Aus­tralia who stud­ies at Delft, ex­plained that cur­rent 3D print­ing meth­ods can­not ren­der large scale ob­jects.

The group worked with a lead­ing 3D prin­ter builder in Am­s­ter­dam, the MX3D com­pany. MX3D is al­ready us­ing the tech­nique to build a pedes­trian bridge, but it ap­proached TU Delft about the pos­si­bil­ity of do­ing some­thing else to demon­strate the po­ten­tial of the tech­nol­ogy.

The bike’s frame was built in sev­eral main sec­tions, which were then welded to one an­other by hand.

Seen up close, the bike’s wire frame looks like a line of arc welds laid down and then built on by an ex­pert welder.

The univer­sity de­scribes the process in a state­ment as ex­trud­ing resin onto hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal sur­faces. “Those col­umns of resin can be curved and linked to­gether as they’re be­ing ex­truded, quickly hard­en­ing into mod­ern art- like cre­ations,” said Delft.

What this means is the robotic arm places the first blob of molten metal, then quickly adds an­other blob on top of it once it’s hard­ened, and con­tin­ues that process un­til it’s cre­ated an en­tire metal col­umn.

“Quickly” is, how­ever, a rel­a­tive term, as the robotic arm took three months to print the bi­cy­cle as it ap­pears above.

By con­trol­ling the point in space at which the welds are made, it’s pos­si­ble to con­trol the ori­en­ta­tion of the col­umns, even get­ting them to in­ter­lace with one an­other.

No sup­port­ing ma­te­ri­als are needed, and quite large struc­tures — like an en­tire bi­cy­cle frame — can be cre­ated. The stu­dents have since rid­den their bike over the cob­ble stones of Delft and it is still in one piece.

PHOTO: TU DELFT, MX3D

The world’s first stain­less steel bike ‘ welded’ in 3D.

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