The world’s first 3D printed carbon fibre bicycle frame
Carbon fibre is very popular in the world of competitive sports, including cycling. The material is stiff, has a high tensile strength and temperature tolerance, and, perhaps most importantly, is very low weight.
However, carbon fibres are very expensive, and bicycle frames made from the material are very labour intensive. Layers of carbon fibre are put in a mould by hand, glued together with resin. The frame is then placed in vacuum-sealed oven. This makes carbon fibres not very viable for the average hobby cyclist.
Arevo’s innovation is three fold. Firstly, they designed a software which allows the designer to experiment with different designs, sizes and materials, without the need to print multiple prototypes, which saves time, money and material.
The company uses a deposition head attached to a robotic arm to print the frame. This method allows the material to be layered in any direction. The free-moving robot is not constrained by the dimensions of a printing unit, giving the possibility to make parts of unlimited size.
Lastly, Arevo uses a composite material made from thermoplastic with carbon fibres embedded inside. The company claims the material is five times stronger than titanium at a third of the weight. During the printing process, the thermoplastic is deposited by a laser, taking only a few seconds to cool down.
All in all, the process creates a frame that only costs $300.
Arevo is no bicycle seller, but because of their innovation, they attracted interest from the cycling world, and they plan to collaborate with one of more bicycle manufacturers to make the frame available to consumers before the end of the year.
Two years ago, students at TU Delft in the Netherlands 3D printed a bicycle frame as well, this one made of stainless steel. Read more here.