BMW hints at future plans, with 3D-printed motorcycle frame
On its Digital Day 2018 event, the BMW Group displayed technology applications destined to transform the automotive world in the near future. Starring among these, 3D printing is already producing car parts, but the appearance of a mysterious motorcycle frame certainly raised some eyebrows.
The BMW Group Digital Day 2018 event was, as its name suggests, a taste of the cutting-edge technologies that BMW is working on. Unsurprisingly, this year's central theme revolved around information technology, with topics like designing for the 5G mobile standard, the use of artificial intelligence in autonomous cars, how mixed reality applications can speed up development processes, connected vehicles and software operating systems for cars. There was also a corner dedicated to 3D printing tech.
Apparently BMW follows closely the developments in printing three-dimensional objects. Its Research and Innovation Center in Munich already incorporates an Additive Manufacturing facility which produces some 140,000 3D-printed parts per year, for several departments of the Group.
These include anything from cosmetic plastic bits for customized Minis, to aluminum mountings for the soft roof of the i8 Roadster and parts of the fuel pump in BMW's DTM racing cars. Nevertheless, it's fitting that a 200-hp S1000RR motor in a 3D-printed frame and swingarm takes things to another level.
BMW Motorrad has never been shy to innovation, recently revealing a new method for cheap carbon composite parts and, once again, the items on display were a motorcycle frame and swingarm. Searching for alternatives to the archetypal metal chassis seems to be high in BMW's priorities.
Unfortunately, although BMW is all too keen to emphasize on how you can order your Mini with your name carved on the glove compartment cover, there's not a single word about this frame, not even what it is made of.
BMW identifies two important advantages to 3D-printing vehicle parts; it is faster and cheaper. There's very little doubt that it is a potential revolution in itself, at least as far as its effect on the automotive industry is concerned, and the signs are there for all to see, ranging from titanium brake calipers to complete city cars, and even supercars.
There's probably no problem in printing a complete frame that'll have to bridle 200 horses – if it can hold its own in a supercar, it can certainly deal with the S1000RR. After all, someone else has already fitted a 3D-printed frame with a supercharged 300-hp motorcycle engine from the Kawasaki H2.