Nov.18, 2013

Today, 3D printing is very much helping the way bicycles are designed. UK bike brand Charge Bikes has collaborated with EADS Innovation Works to produce world's first 3D printed frame manufacturing components using 3D printing. And Trek Bicycle has been using 3D printing to build prototypes of parts for long. Many bicycle manufacturers are finding benefits of the technology, Giant Bicycles is also one of them utilizing the technology in their products. is reporting that Giant Bicycles has started using 3D printing to both prototype and manufacture bicycle saddles. Giant used Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Stereolithography (SLA) from online 3D Printing service provider to quickly create rideable prototypes to test and take it into production.

Giant first uses Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) to create a saddle prototype. SLS is a method of 3D printing in which tiny particles of plastic, ceramic or glass are fused together by heat from a high-power laser to form a mass that has a desired three-dimensional shape.

"We've found that the Nylon powder used with Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) mimics the base of the bike saddle," explained Daniel Lentz Lead Industrial Designer: Components at Giant. "That's the beauty of ordering SLS parts; they simulate the final product. We modify the model, print, and take the SLS prototypes out for a ride, allowiing us to feel and test the final product before actually having the final product."

The technology allows Lentz's team to test many variations and adjust the shape to make a seat custom-fitted to customers. After finalizing the design in SLS, Lentz's team moved to another 3D printing process: Stereolithography (SLA). SLA uses a vat of liquid UV-curable photopolymer "resin" and a UV laser to build parts one layer at a time. On each layer, the laser beam traces a cross-section pattern of the part onto the surface of the liquid resin. Exposure to the UV laser light cures, solidifies the pattern traced on the resin and adheres it to the layer below.

"SLA is used to print the mold for the seat. Within the SLA mold, we pour polyurethane and actually mold the board here in our office," explained Lentz. "Form and comfort for new saddles is important. We see real benefits in the precise and custom forms achievable through 3D Printing processes, and in future possible shapes."

The process is cheaper and faster compared to the traditional methods of tooling and machining. The finished sample is said to feel fairly comfortable even for the road bikers. The process allows the engineers to create more variation in size and fit for customers. It could mean in future more bicycle seats could be custom made to fit everyone to make their ride more comfortable and much easier.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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