Oct 4, 2016 | By Nick

A new Kickstarter wants to change the world of cycling with brighter, safer, smarter and fun bikes that simply couldn’t happen without 3D printing.

The concept for Aurora Bright Bikes is relatively simple. Right now cyclists rely on additional lights and brightly colored clothing to announce their presence to motorists and statistics suggest it is simply not enough. W. Gerard Poole, PhD noticed near-invisible cyclists racing around the streets at night and decided to do something about it. He wanted to create a new kind of bicycle with an integrated lit frame that other road users simply have to spot.

But this goes beyond a simple safety initiative. Poole’s PhD is in ethnic music he’s a Flamenco singer and composer, so he was keen to add a touch of flair to the bikes and motion to the lights. This is a bike with passion and artistic flair, that brings art and technology together. It’s about personal expression, creativity and the bike will also connect to the Internet of Things. There's no word yet on what the bike will actually do with that connection beyond hooking into your wearable fitness monitors, but there are definite possibilities for improved safety and potentially even warning car drivers of a bicycle in their blind spot.

It’s such a simple concept, that you wonder why nobody has done this before. Then you get into the technical challenges and realise just why that is.

This is an exceptionally complex piece of engineering. This is a next gen bicycle that embodies the concept of mass customization, but all the technology would be meaningless if it isn’t a world class bike first and foremost.

So Poole took his concept to the best and found a willing ear in Craig Calfee, who the invented the bamboo bike and an established master when it comes to Tour de France road racers. Calfee agreed to build the first prototype and brought a lot of knowledge to the table. Without a designer and builder of Calfee’s caliber, the whole project might have remained just a clever idea.

The team have already built six prototypes and are constantly experimenting with new materials and tolerances, which would have made the whole project massively expensive if Poole hadn’t take the wise decision to invest in a 3D printer early on. This has given the team the freedom to experiment with different gauges and flex, which has helped them get around some serious technical challenges.

Traditional manufacturers can use tried-and-trusted technology like Titanium and aluminum alloys to produce a lightweight bike that is still strong enough to take the trials and tribulations of daily use. Poole’s concept of internal lighting means that just isn’t an option and the main tubular sections of the Aurora Bright Bikes simply have to be plastic. That was a massive technical challenge as plastic bikes aren’t popular for a number of reasons.

Plastic is light and it’s a good shock absorber, but it’s complex to work with and it’s hard to make it durable and rigid enough to function as a solid bike. The company also wanted to offer a clear finish, which gives unfettered access to the lights inside at a pixel level, or a frosted look that diffuses the light and creates an impressive glowing bike.

The answer to the structural issue was to mount the tubes in solid aluminum joints that could provide the anchor points the bike needs. These can be chromed or frosted and they really don’t stand out as much as you might think when the bike lights up.

In essence the finished bike is slightly less flexible than the iconic bamboo bike, as it’s designed as a comfortable cruiser rather than a road racer. The whole frame acts as a shock absorber, too, and the materials are an integral part of that. As well as Calfee, Poole has brought a number of engineers and bicycle specialists on board to perfect the geometry.

Then he had to work on the lighting system and two apps later, he has come up with a fully programmable microprocessor that controls the light show. You can program it from your smartphone and the software is open source so keen hackers can take it to the next level. Your bike can even connect to a heart rate monitor and react to your physical exertion, which keen riders will love.

Without 3D printing, we probably wouldn’t be looking at the Aurora Bright Bikes today. It’s a classic example of how modern technology has allowed a small team with almost no budget to realize their vision and create something magical from a simple concept. "Our explorations in 3D printing have allowed us to customize many aspects of the bikes, and we are also making available to the community various electronic customization options through our open source platforms," says the team.

Now, it has to raise $40,000 to turn the prototypes into a production reality and if you want to know more then check out the Kickstarter campaign here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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