Additive Manufacturing saves time and money when designing bicycle frames
Until now, the development of a new frame concept used to be complicated, costly and most of all, time consuming. For a first prototype of a new frame, a mock-up would be welded from steel tubes. This could then be used to attach parts and check the frame’s geometry and appearance. If problems arose a new mock-up was required, which could take weeks or even months.
For carbon fiber frames, making a prototype was even more demanding. Each design iteration required a new milled mold in which carbon fiber can be shaped into the design prototype. . This is a time consuming and therefore expensive process — the mold alone could cost between 10,000 € and 25,000 € — and again, it might be weeks before a frame design can finally be evaluated to decide if changes are necessary or not.
This is where 3d printing comes into play. Using their BigRep ONE, engineers can print the frame geometries that had been designed on the computer within one or two days. In just a short while it is possible to have a frame in hand, to get a real feel for the product, and to compare it with one’s expectations. These design iterations greatly influence the decision to abandon a design or develop it further. Johannes Thumm: “We can simply design, print, check the frame, maybe do some modifications, print it again.”
After a few post-processing steps like sanding, priming, and painting, the prototype looks like how the final bicycle frame will appear and is useful for collecting aesthetic opinions from colleagues and potential customers. In case adaptations are required, the 3D printer drastically shortens iteration cycles and, therefore, the time it takes until the next frame version is available. Costs for 3D printed prototypes are only a fraction of those made with conventional methods.