07 June 2012
3D Printing Used to Develop Bicycles
The subject of 3D printing has spent the last year gaining a lot of new attention. What was once a niche field with limited capacities is now starting to find its way into a variety of different industries and applications. One area where 3D printing has started to find increased use is in bicycle development.
Typically, the process of developing a new bicycle involves a few specific steps. Whether on paper or a computer, most designs start as sketches. The goal in this phase is to plan a frame that is both structurally sound and stylistic. After a design has been achieved that meets these criteria, the prototyping phase begins. This is the part where computer renders are generated and handmade models are built. It is at this point where the design of the bicycle is finalized as those in charge of the process figure out what adjustments need to be made.
With this setup, the problem is that going from sketches to a fully-functioning prototype is a lengthy one. This is where 3D printing comes in and solves a lot of the problems that are typically associated with it. With 3D printing, prototypes can be built directly from computer models. There are a number of different materials that can be used with a 3D printer, although in most cases the printer will be using a different material than what will appear in the final model.
To streamline the process of developing a bicycle, the components of designing models and handcrafting prototypes are brought together with the printer. A model can be developed on a computer and printed in 3D much quicker than it can be built. This means that the many alterations and revisions that come during the development process are completed in a much more timely manner.
For bicycle developers, this means that the time between initial design and final product is shortened significantly. It's an interesting use of 3D printing. More importantly, it serves as an indicator just how much the technology is influencing our world.