Printing molten metal
Dutch students test first 3D stainless steel bike on cobbles
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.
The world’s first stainless steel bike ‘ welded’ in 3D.