Aug 29, 2016 | By Alec

The 3D printing industry is moving into a new phase. The technology’s ‘hype’, largely driven by very cool but ultimately unpractical 3D printing projects, is well and truly over. This is above all reflected in 3D printer sales, which haven’t been able to build on their explosive growth of a few years ago. But there is a huge silver lining: the technology has finally reached a point where it is both affordable and potent enough for companies of all sizes. To illustrate that practical potential, a group of Flemish companies led by 3D printing promotor Flam王D have just completely 3D printed a bike – including the frame, the steering wheel, the saddle, the wheels, the breaks and more.

The Belgian region of Flanders is, of course, a region with a highly developed industry and plenty of high-tech (3D printing) companies and universities. Materialise and institutes like the Universities of Leuven and Ghent are absolutely packed with 3D printing expertise. While they can (and have) all pioneered 3D printing innovations separately, they recently set up the new cluster organization Flam王D (Flame3D, short for Flanders Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Ecosystem) that will work to promote the technology. In total, the non-profit organization represents over 60 companies and research institutes.

This 3D printed bicycle has to be seen in the light of Flam王D’s mission. For their original goal was to showcase all that 3D expertise (from fields like topology optimization, ceramics 3D printing, fiber reinforced prints, 3D printed electronics and so on), not to 3D print a bike. The result just happens to really look and function like a bike. “3D printing a bike is not such a big deal any more. What 3D printing really needs nowadays, is cooperation. Beyond the hype, there’s a world in which we have to work together – both in- and outside the AM ecosystem. Flanders is ready for that reality,” Flam王D General Director Kris Binon argued.

In that sense, it is also a response to the 3D printing hype itself. While countless fantastic prints and projects created a lot of buzz around 3D printing, the practical potential (and the limitations) of the technology are hardly visible for many companies. The bike thus serves as a demonstration tool that highlights different aspects of 3D printing. But at the same time, it underlines the need for collaboration. “We need to set new standards for this amazing technology, the 3D-printing market needs maturing and therefore the focus should be on development of a continuous outlet rather than on competing each other”, Binon argues.

But that doesn’t make the bike itself any less impressive. Named the 王-BIKE, it was unveiled by Limburg Governor Herman Reynders at the famous Zolder Race Circuit” last weekend, an important cycling and business event. In the near future, it will also travel to various events and fairs to promote 3D printing.

It is especially eye-catching for its long list of 22 different 3D printed features, many made with different 3D technologies. Aside from the 3D printed frame, steering wheel and so on, the bike also features a 3D printed silicone-carbide sprocket, 3D printed switches and breaks, 3D printed goggles and a GoPro mount, and even a 3D printed lens on the back of the saddle. Carbon fiber composites were extensively used as well, while even the bicycle chain was 3D printed in separate parts.

It is thus a truly 3D printed bicycle, that simply serves to bring all aspects of the technology together. “The materials all have specific properties that can be of great value for both professional and recreational cyclists,” Flam王D’s chairman Kurt Hensen explains. “It shows the boundless opportunities of 3D technology and will help us encourage companies to develop more innovative 3D printing applications.”

For this particular project, Flam王D collaborated with 17 prominent companies and research institutes: 3D&I, 3Dee, Formando, Hoet, KULeuven, Layered Prints, Materialise, MT3D, REIN4CED, RSPrint, Sirris, T&M Solutions, Tenco DDM, Ugent and Vamac. The 王-BIKE has also been backed by Ridley Bikes, r-l-f, AMS robotics and government agency Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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