Nov 9, 2017 | By Benedict

Students from the University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten in Germany have designed a first-of-its-kind 3D printed self-balancing scooter. The project is being supported by Stratasys, whose Fortus 900mc 3D printer was used for the larger components.

Stroll down the street in any major city today and you’ll see groups of tourists riding Segways—self-balancing, single-person vehicles that look as silly as they do futuristic. Though less common, you’ve probably also seen a few “hoverboards” propelling brave riders down busy streets. No, these aren’t like the floating skateboards used by Marty McFly in Back to the Future, but are more like Segways without handles: two-wheeled platforms that use gyroscopes to keep themselves upright.

But self-balancing scooters aren’t the preserve of giant corporations like Segway Inc. In fact, even students are now getting to grips with gyroscopic transport technology, as is evidenced by a new project from the University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten in Germany.

Not only have these enterprising students attempted to tackle the very futuristic concept of self-balancing scooters, they’ve also used 3D printing to bring their designs to life.

The students didn’t just go about this task on a whim, of course. Rather, the whole exercise is part of a collaborative state university project supported by big companies like Porsche and Siemens. The research project is called “Digital Product Life Cycle,” and its aim is to establish a fully integrated and automated digital development process for the production of customized products.

As part of this research project, the group of German students were asked to explore different technologies and processes in order to overcome the limitations of traditional manufacturing while producing a one-off product. And according to those involved, additive manufacturing turned out to be crucial at virtually every stage of the project.

“Producing the core prototype parts for the self-balancing scooter was a real stumbling block until we discovered 3D printing,” commented Markus Till, Head of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Ravensburg-Weingarten. “We realized that 3D printing offers the best possible manufacturing solution for an ideal executable product development method for a customized product.”

But while Till refers to “3D printing” in a general sense, multiple forms of additive manufacturing tech were used to fabricate the various parts of the one-off vehicle. The frame and platform parts of the scooter, for example, were 3D printed in Nylon6 material using Stratasys’ large-scale Fortus 900mc 3D printer. This allowed the larger parts to be 3D printed in one piece.

Next, to give the rider good grip under their feet, a rubbery cover was 3D printed using Agilus30 material on the Stratasys Connex3 full-color 3D printer. Both of these 3D printing processes helped the students overcome various obstacles associated with traditional manufacturing techniques.

“Using traditional manufacturing processes such as milling or molding, the most notable challenge is developing the scooter’s body frame, which houses several parts from motor to electrics,” Till said. “Firstly, the structure of the part is too complex for subtractive methods, while the turnaround times are too time-intensive to meet the production schedule.”

This meant that students had to adopt a new mindset regarding how bits and pieces could be constructed and put together. “We’ve seen students start to ‘think additively,’ leveraging the capabilities of the 3D printing to design with more freedom and with customization in mind,” Till added, estimating that the students turned a three-week job into a four-day job using 3D printing.

3D printing the self-balancing scooter hasn’t just provided the University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten with a new toy to play with either: it’s also going to have a knock-on effect for the university’s curriculum.

According to Till, students became so engaged with the additive manufacturing technology available to them, the university will now look to incorporate 3D printing into future projects, with or without the direct support of Stratasys.

Stratasys' EMEA president Andy Middleton added that it was “crucial that the next generation of engineers are given the right education to prepare them for the requirements of engineering within industry” in order to equip them with the “relevant skills and tools to be competitive for top engineering and manufacturing jobs.”

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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