3D-printed electric motorbike
A German company has created a 3D-printed electric motorbike. With the exceptions of the engine and the battery, the machine, known as Nera, is made entirely from 3D-printed parts, including airless tyres. It’s 190cm long and 90cm high, and is made of 15 parts, with the engine encased in a 3D-printed shell, and the motor in the back wheel.
Its designers at BigRep, which makes large industrial 3D printers, say the bike took three days to print, using the company’s own printers, and cost about £2,000 to make. The prototype was shown at the Formnext 3D printing trade exhibition in Frankfurt, but although it works, it is not for sale – the aim was just to show what could be done.
BigRep CEO Stephan Beyer explained: “The idea was to demonstrate to designers, engineers, architects and the general consumer what 3D printing is all about. Historically, engineers and designers have been limited with manufacturing technologies like grinding and moulding. The nice thing with 3D printing is that you can swipe those limitations away and create objects that have new capabilities and follow new designs.”
How printing in 3D works
A 3D printer builds up an object one layer at a time, from the bottom up, by repeatedly printing over the same area. Instead of ink, it uses layers of molten plastic or powder and fuses them together with adhesive or ultraviolet light. The plastic is printed through a small nozzle, called an extruder head, which is controlled by a computer.
The technology is still in its early stages, but has been used for some incredible things, particularly in medicine – in 2015 Miami Children’s Hospital used it to make a model of the heart of a four-year-old girl who needed very complex surgery, to help the surgeon perform a successful operation.
Nicolas Zart, writing on the green technology website Clean Technica, said: “3D printing holds much potential to shape, bend, and mix stronger, lighter, and stiffer materials for electric vehicles in general. It’s a wonder traditional mobility makers haven’t invested more into 3D printing. Although the technology is becoming mainstream in aviation, it will be a leap forward in the automotive industry.”
The designers from NOWlab – BigRep’s innovation arm – said they had aimed to come up with a 3D-printable design from scratch, rather than adapt conventional motorbike designs for 3D printing.
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