Bicycles

EADS Airbike made of steel-strength nylon

EADS Airbike made of steel-str...
Engineers from the Bristol wing of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have announced the development of the first bicycle using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology
Engineers from the Bristol wing of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have announced the development of the first bicycle using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology
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The Airbike benefits from a Kevlar belt drive system, integrated bearings encased in hubs and crank
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The Airbike benefits from a Kevlar belt drive system, integrated bearings encased in hubs and crank
Embossed text features at various points, which were produced as the bike was formed
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Embossed text features at various points, which were produced as the bike was formed
The Airbike's saddle has an auxetic structure to provide cushioning
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The Airbike's saddle has an auxetic structure to provide cushioning
The ALM process at EADS Bristol
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The ALM process at EADS Bristol
The ALM process at EADS Bristol
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The ALM process at EADS Bristol
The ALM process at EADS Bristol
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The ALM process at EADS Bristol
The ALM process at EADS Bristol
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The ALM process at EADS Bristol
Engineers from the Bristol wing of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have announced the development of the first bicycle using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology
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Engineers from the Bristol wing of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have announced the development of the first bicycle using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology

Engineers from the Bristol wing of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have announced the development of the first bicycle using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology. The manufacturing process involves "growing" the components from a fine nylon powder, similar in concept to 3D printing. Said to be as strong as steel, the end product is claimed to contain only a fraction of the source material used by traditional machining, and the process results in much less waste. It also has the potential to take manufacture to precisely where the component or product is needed, instead of being confined to factories often located a great distance away.

The Airbike has an integrated truss structure to keep weight down while maintaining strength and rigidity, although the ALM process is said to result in components that are 65 percent lighter than those produced by traditional machining anyway, and it uses about one tenth the material. The structure of the two-wheeler was perfected using computer design software and then constructed using a powerful laser-sintering process which builds up thin layers of a fine powder of metal (such as titanium, stainless steel or aluminum), carbon-reinforced plastics or – in this case – nylon, until the solid form is created.

The ALM process at EADS Bristol
The ALM process at EADS Bristol

Complete sections are "grown" from the chosen structural material, with the wheels, bearings and axle incorporated within the process and built at the same time. EADS says that the nylon components produced by the ALM process are strong enough to replace steel or aluminum. Unsurprisingly perhaps for the company, the eight-bladed wheels are based on the scimitar propeller design of the Airbus A400M, and the bike's name follows a similar line to that of Airbus, the first EADS company to use the technology.

EADS sees the technology potentially allowing components to be quickly and cheaply manufactured precisely where they are needed – such as in offices, shops, houses or even remote military or humanitarian aid locations – instead of in factories half a world away. The company believes it has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing.

"The possibilities with ALM are huge – it's a game-changing technology," said Andy Hawkins, the lead engineer for ALM at EADS. "The beauty is that complex designs do not cost any extra to produce. The laser can draw any shape you like and many unique design features have been incorporated into the Airbike such as the auxetic structure to provide saddle cushioning or the integrated bearings encased within the hubs."

The Airbike's saddle has an auxetic structure to provide cushioning
The Airbike's saddle has an auxetic structure to provide cushioning

Auxetic shapes appear to go against the grain of physics – contracting and compressing when squeezed instead of getting thicker, or becoming thicker instead of thinning out when stretched.

The Airbike requires no conventional maintenance or assembly, and also benefits from a Kevlar belt drive system, integrated bearings encased in hubs and crank, and embossed text in various locations, all of which were produced as the bike was formed.

The ALM technology used in the development of the Airbike is at the proof-of-concept stage at the moment, but EADS says that it has reached a level of development where it can be used in high-stress, safety-critical aviation.

23 comments
DemonDuck
The front wheel is on backwards.....
lovetomix
very observant DemonDuck... I had to go back to see what you meant...
christopher
If it uses a tenth of the material, how is it only 65% lighter?
Bill Bennett
DemonDuck You do have a valid point,, ya think you will every hear a reply about it? yeah, I agree
windows8forum
It looks wonderful and love the white color....
warmfeet
Thing is, how do you get your hands on one ? And where\'s the brakes ? Surely brakes are a must ? Or do you brake by spinning the pedals backwards ?
Ingo
It\'s great that these kind of innovations are happening, but why must they always be presented in such ugly, and unappealing ways?
Rustin Lee Haase
Its very cool to \"print\" a bicycle, but why is the EADS doing this? I suppose it would be parallel to NASA doing it, but it certainly has nothing to do with defense. I\'m sorry, there is nothing scary about a platoon of soldiers coming at you on their plastic bicycles. :-) That said, this is a great achievement. I\'ve been a fan of 3d printing for some years now and am thrilled at watching it develop. Makerbot units can be had for ~$1K. Its lots of fun and is becoming increasingly relevant. I imagine that some day we will have systems at home that print almost all of our stuff and we will have to pay to get the exceptional stuff only like microchips or other things that are difficult to manufacture. We would do the easy stuff at home. Modern 3d printers use ABS and PLA plastic mainly. Incidentally PLA is an agricultural product, so when you make stuff with that, you are going green too. Very cool...Gizmag should keep watching this kind of technology. :-)
Lawrence Lagarde
Local manufacture sure would take the air out of the Chinese econonmy. The bike must be a fixie. I bet that saddle\'s hard on the butt.
SDJohnston
Lawrence, I could only dream that you are correct, but I feel the reality will be that it will be the Chineese that manufacture it for the masses.