Jun 14, 2016 | By Alec

In today’s busy world, convenience is everything. That’s exactly why all tasks that make up our day-to-day lives, from communicating, ordering food to exercising, are all being condensed into apps. Taking that same principle to the world of cycling, one Cambridge, Massachusetts-based bicycle manufacturer called Montague Bikes has adopted 3D printing technology to produce a new folding bicycle. Relying on the DirectConnect folding system, it enables cyclists to easily disassemble and store their bikes in their apartments or cars.

Montague Bikes itself is an unusual bicycle manufacturer in that they were born out of MIT innovations, though they have now been around for almost three decades already. Founded by David Montague (who is still the company’s president today), Montague Bikes started in the garage of the founder’s father with the mission to make cycling more convenient. And they have succeeded. Right now, they have over ten different folding bike models in production, which are distributed in 30 countries. All feature a convenient folding mechanism that doesn’t affect the bike’s overall strength at all. In response to growing demand, the company launched their first pavement bikes in 2010, before moving into 3D printing last year for a complete overhaul of their folding system.

But the principles have stayed the same. “We make full size bikes that fold, not folding bikes,” explained company president David Montague. “You don’t miss out on any of the benefits of high end componentry, but you have the added benefit of being able to take it with you.” As such, all Montague bicycles have been made for athletes with standard wheel sizes and all the accessories users look for. Really the only thing that sets them apart is the fact that their bikes happen to be foldable and easy to store and transport.

Thanks to 3D printing, the Montague team have been able to develop a completely new DirectConnect folding system that takes that convenience to a whole new level. This new system requires just one quick release on the wheel, and a lever of the frame, to fold the whole bike in half. Thanks to a clever design, various angled locks all join each other and automatically lock the parts together. “The beauty of DirectConnect is that it’s totally hidden,” Montague explained. “It’s tailor made for its use and it was very valuable to use 3D printing to design the prototype and have something in our hands in a matter of hours or days.”

The prototype itself was designed through Shapeways support, who produced various scaled plastic prototypes that enabled the Montague engineers to test the different folding mechanisms. Once the bike specialists found a design that worked, it was 3D printed in aluminum so it could be welded in place and really tested. “What used to be a months long process that cost thousands of dollars can now be done in a week for a couple hundred dollars,” Montague said.

So does it make a difference? According to the company, the new folding system provides a better ride, more convenience and looks fantastic. This is reflected by the FIT bike, the first new road bicycle by Montague Bikes. Costing about as much as a non-folding bike and being every bit as solid, it looks great and is super convenient in use. The FIT bike can even be stored in your trunk at all times, making it very easy to go on a trip at a moment’s notice. “You have to be able to ride a century and not know your bike was folded,” Montague said of the bike.

It’s just another example of how 3D printing can make designs far more efficient, and much easier to develop. Thanks to 3D printing, the new DirectConnect folding system makes the lives of cyclists so much easier, whether you live in a cramped urban environment or are simply too busy to act as a mechanic whenever you want to go for a ride.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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