This 3D-printed bicycle is stronger than titanium

October 25, 2018

 

The Arevo bicycle looks and feels like a high-end commuter bike, but it was made using 3D-printing technology and software. It's being hailed as the first truly 3D-printed bicycle.

 

The Bay Area-based "additive manufacturing" company (that's what engineering-level 3D printing is called these days) made the fully functional bicycle as a proof-of-concept to show that the thermoplastic material, laser-heating, and robotic 3D-printing process can be used to replace metal parts for defense companies, airplanes, fighter jets, electronics, and more. Basically 3D printing doesn't mean chintzy plastic figurines anymore.

 

SEE ALSO: 3D printing and pottery come together at this design studio

The bicycle frame was made in one piece and eventually other parts of the bicycle could be printed, as well. It took about two weeks to build the bike — which is a lot quicker than the usual labor-intensive method of piecing together carbon fiber strips.

 

A robotic arm and spinning table use a laser to heat the thermoplastic material and form it into the unique bicycle shape. The design for the bike, or other objects, is input through the software and then it's "lights out" while the robot does its thing. Customized bikes for different sizes, or close-to-exact replicas of replacement parts for naval equipment, are easy to make using this method.

 

While showing off the bicycle this week, new CEO Jim Miller, who joined the company a few months ago from Google and Amazon, made clear Arevo isn't a bike-maker, but wanted a way to show how the company's software and technology works. After all the interest from the eye-catching vehicle designed with Studio West, Arevo is working with bike manufacturers to use the frame for a new product line. Arevo's tech will produce hundreds of the high-tech bikes, but you won't be buying it straight from Arevo. Miller expects the bikes to be available by next year depending on which companies they partner with to produce the bike.

 

Miller was also excited about the material that's stronger than titanium and really hard to break. He encouraged me to really whack the bike and push on it — it didn't budge. It's also recyclable and made from non-toxic materials, which seemed like important points to Miller. He noted that the frame uses the same material, polyether ether ketone, known as a PEEK polymer, used in spinal replacements. 

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