Arc 3D printed steel bicycle, side

While here in North America we’re all excited about the NAHBS celebration of hand-built bicycles, this crazy looking bike would be an excellent candidate for a European Robot Built Bike Show (ERBBS?) if such a thing existed.

Students from TU Delft’s Industrial Design Engineering Faculty in the Netherlands spent three months designing the webbed/net-like frame. The Arc Bicycle was then manufactured from stainless steel by an Amsterdam-based research and development company called MX3D who specializes in multi-axis 3-D printing.

A bicycle was chosen by the students as a test piece due to the complex forces bike frames typically endure- not to mention that Amsterdam’s people absolutely love bikes to begin with. The Arc bicycle is fully functional, check out the video below to see robotic arms building it and one of the students taking it for a spin…

Arc 3D printed steel bicycle, close up

If you’re thinking the Arc’s frame looks like a bunch of welds piled on top of each other, you’re right on the mark. The motivation behind building this bike was to demonstrate the potential within a new method of 3-D printing metal objects using a welding process, a concept the Delft University of Technology has been researching on a broader scope. It is the world’s first bike to be 3-D printed using this new welding-based technique.

 Arc 3D printed steel bicycle, front shot Arc 3D printed steel bicycle, seat mast

MX3D has developed a unique way to use multi-axis robotic arms as 3-D printers, enabling mid-air additive manufacturing of metal or resin objects with no support structures required. This construction method enables a new level of form freedom when manufacturing medium to large scale metal objects.

Arc 3D printed steel bicycle, front end

Last year MX3D announced their intentions to build a 3-D printed steel pedestrian bridge, and the students were invited to use their equipment to build the bike frame. Producing the bike put the print software being developed by MX3D and partners Autodesk and Arcelor Mittal to the test before they attempted to tackle the much larger bridge project. Building the Arc Bicycle also created a tangible product to act as a showcase of MX3D’s capabilities.

Arc 3D printed steel bicycle, rear end
*Photos courtesy of MX3D

The Arc Bicycle apparently weighs about the same as a traditional steel framed bike, and has been holding up just fine under real-world use on Amsterdam’s bumpy cobblestone roadways.


  1. I must be lacking imagination, but I can’t see how that fabrication process is anywhere near efficient enough to use in creation of ANY structure. It must have taken weeks to layer enough welds to create that frame. While it does offer more degrees of freedom than 3D printing, it is far more time/resource intensive.

  2. Pretty cool way to print something! Looks faster than DMLS, although that finish is….uniquely textured. Kudos to the team, it’s a neat project. Maybe I’m not seeing it right, but in my mind there’s no way that thing weighs close to a hollow-tubed steel frame. The material volume just looks too much.

  3. I think I saw a video of a small pedestrian bridge built over a creek with that technology. So cool cause they escape the limited envelope of a DMLS machine.

  4. Just like the matrix frame it’s a trash/mud collector. It must weigh a ton to begin with and after another ton gets netted in that frame your gonna wish it was a tandem.

  5. They used an ordinary industrial robot arm with a MIG-welder attached and added welding bead on welding bead, thereby introducing heavy heat fatigue into the material. Combined with the notching effect on each bead there is practically no stress resistance in the frame. Plus for the BB-housing and the head tube they had to use ordinary pipes. If they just had taken wire, bend it into shape and binded it together at the crossing, the frame could have been made in less time with a sounder structure. By hey, then there would have been not “3D-printing” involved.

What do you think?