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The EADS Airbike and other links

Miscellaneous 8 998

I have seen quite a few different posts today about the EADS ‘Airbike’ (named after the EADS subsidiary Airbus).  The European Aerospace and Defense Group created this bicycle to demonstrate their Additive Layer Manufacturing (basically 3d printing) process. The official EDS press release explains that the nylon structure is ‘grown’ from a fine powder, allowing complete sections, including wheels, bearings and axles, to be created in place all together. In addition to the nylon material, EADS is working with metal powders (titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum) as well as carbon-reinforced plastics to build complex objects with ALM. As a manufacturing demonstration, this is an impressive project with multiple precise moving parts that are created “using computer-aided design and then constructed by using a powerful laser-sintering process which adds successive, thin layers of the chosen structural material until a solid, fully-formed bike emerges.”

Like I said, a great demonstration of the technology, but I don’t expect to see complete bikes being created this way anytime soon, as some of the “bike of the future” posts I have read today would lead you to believe. I am not the only one who thinks that some of the stories on the web today about the Airbike seems a little farfetched though. Andrew, one of the many readers who forwarded a link about this project to me, questioned the claimed weight reduction over an aluminum bike that many of the tech sites seems to be to focused on. “The 65% weight reduction is for a generic machined part, not an optimized structure like a bicycle.” Still, Andrew points out, “the design freedom of 3D-printing does let you experiment with some interesting monocoque structures, and at least it’s getting creative manufacturing and bikes in the news.”

Shifting gears a bit, I want to mention the Vélo-retro vintage bicycle event, which will take place along the Loire valley in France on June 19th. Anthony Sanchez, an organizer of the event explains:

“This French original and friendly event will gather all the people interested in the retro bicycles, fixies, single speeds…  It also concerns the nostalgic of the legends of cycling racing and vintage lovers.”

Sounds like fun. Read more about the event, and check out the gallery photos, on the website.

I have seen belts and accessories made from used bike tire before, but the ones from Jiro Belt are the most stylish by far. I especially like the limited edition Giro d’Italia belt made with Vittoria “Il Guerriero” tubulars.

Cyclingmobility, is a new quarterly magazine for professionals involved in urban planning, cycling policy, and mobility research and development. It will be available on a subscription basis only (including online access) or as an iPad app version.  It looks pretty interesting so far. Check the site or follow them on Twitter for more info.

Finally, I want to mention that the 2011 London Cyclist top 50 Bike Blogs list is out. Bicycle Design made the #11 spot this year… not bad when you consider the quality of all the blogs chosen. I already found a few good blogs that I was not familiar with, so make sure you check out the entire list.

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  1. A. Rant March 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm -  Reply

    I am all for new technology and new processes but I saw this on BBC news and it looked like it was flexing and wobbling while the presenter was holding it never mind when he tried to ride it. So apart from how inappropriate this material is (at this stage) for bicycle construction, the geometry is just a joke. To me this is as bad as the numerous ill-conceived CAD models that flood any Internet image search when the words “bicycle” and “design” are used. It’s a shame that these creations steal attention away from real, innovative and responsible bicycle designers.

    A. Rant

  2. Ross Nicholson March 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm -  Reply

    I think that this bike looks GREAT! It is only by stretching the envelope that we will ever get anywhere.
    Bicycle design takes the rap for the ultra-conservative bicycle evolution that has kept racing bicycles static in design since the 1930’s. I welcome innovation, especially from corporate sources like EADS. Surely, design acclaim cannot be considered a zero-sum game. Hopefully, someone will get the break-through we are all hoping for.

  3. Steve A March 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm -  Reply

    It looks like conventional stereolithography. How does the build differ?

  4. Andrew March 14, 2011 at 1:20 am -  Reply

    I’m almost certain it’s standard selective laser sintering (SLS) with nylon. It doesn’t strike me as exceptionally novel from a manufacturing point of view, except that no one has really bothered to make a full-sized bike before.

    Given that bicycles are largely stiffness-critical structures, nylon is not really a practical material to use. It would take a tube 6x the diameter of an aluminium one to achieve equivalent stiffness, but the density of nylon is 3x less, so you’re likely looking at something that will necessarily be much heavier.

    Still, it’s a neat project. Though frankly, I have other ideas for 3D-printed applications relating to bikes that I think make a lot more sense.

    One detail on this bike that is very thoughtful is the design of the saddle that achieves cushioning through the inherent flexibility of nylon and the auxetic structure they’ve made.

  5. mommus March 14, 2011 at 9:53 am -  Reply

    I like the idea behind it, as an example of that ‘British high-tech engineering’ (from a french company??) that we require to invigorate our export markets… but is a bike like this really the best way to promote it? I think it rather gives the impression that we are using very high tech manufacturing just for the sake of it. You could build a stronger, lighter bicycle frame with a saw, some bamboo and a tube of araldite.
    I’m sure there are uses for STL like this. I’ve seen it used for medical modeling prior to bone and structural surgery. I’m sure it would also be great for forming gnarly dildos.

  6. Mark March 15, 2011 at 9:34 am -  Reply

    Although the design shows thinking outside the box, I think 3D printing is only suitable for prototyping, for now at least. I also think that nylon is a terrible material for a bike frame. To be as stiff as a steel bike It would have to be heavier. BTW a number of years ago there was a lot of space given in the engineering press about an all-plastic bicycle, but I never saw anything come of it. Does anyone else remember it?

  7. jason January 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm -  Reply

    In the not to distant future, we will all have 3D printers in our home and will be able to print what we want by downloading the CAD file to our cell phone. This can be done today for small parts. The manufacturing base will shift from Asia to in your home before your eyes.
    The biggest obstacle to this now is the lack of machines that print multiple materials at the same time.

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