3d printer lets you design, print and ride your own bicycle and components

EADS Airbike is a rideable 3D-printed nylon bicycle that takes advantage of a new crop of powder-and-laser three dimensional printers to create a frame and components that are strong enough to actually use.

The current spate of 3D printers form prototypes from either a powder or gel, often using lasers to solidify the matter in layers based on CAD or other computer renderings. This one was designed by EADS (European Aerospace and Defence Group) and uses a process called additive layer manufacturing, a process similar to 3D printing but with the addition of laser sintering to reinforce the final product. This gives it teh same strength of steel or aluminum at just over half the weight. What that means is that prototypes can now be made that can be used (in some applications) to test a concept under real world conditions.

It also means that in the near future, we’ll be able to manufacturer our own designs or simply download a blueprint and send it to our home 3D printer. Manufacturing On Demand will likely become as common as Video On Demand…now we just need a Netflix of product blueprints.

Photo via Engadget, more after the break

eads airbike nylon 3d printed bicycle concept

This image courtesy of the BBC.


  1. I’m verrrry skeptical of that strength and weight. That sounds like standard SLS (selective laser sintering) 3d-printing, and even if it’s fiber-reinforced, its modulus is still way, way below aluminium or steel. Modulus is the important figure because bikes are largely stiffness-critical structures. This is why there are no Kevlar or fiberglass composite bikes, only carbon fiber, because while aramid or glass have nearly as good strength as CF, their modulus is far lower.

    SLS nylon
    modulus: 1.7 GPa
    tensile strength: 48 MPa
    density: 0.93 g/cc

    6061 T6 aluminium
    modulus: 68.9 GPa
    tensile strength: 276 MPa
    density: 2.7 g/cc

    Granted, the design freedom of 3D-printing allows you to design things as a monocoque structure, as shown above, which can let you increase your tubular cross-section significantly to increase stiffness. But to produce a tube of the same stiffness as the aluminium, it would need to have more than 6 times the diameter, but the density of the nylon is only 2.9 times less…

    They may have done some design wizardry to work it out, but it sounds fishy.

  2. Well, there is certainly no better or reliable way to get factual, well investigated information than to get it from Engadget. Right?

What do you think?