Lots of bike brands are dabbling with 3D printing these days, whether it’s custom saddles from Specialized or dropouts on the Mason Aspect. The latest project to wing its way into our inbox is the bonkers looking aluminium bike from Amsterdam-based company MX3D.
The startup company has used Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) with a robotic arm and bespoke software it has created itself to create the unique aluminium frame and fork called the Arc Bike II. Watch the time-lapse video below and the frame appears to grow out of nothing, it’s quite something to behold.
MX3D’s first bike project used stainless steel, this latest creation employs aluminium to save weight. The complete bike as pictured comes in at a claimed 13.5kg (29.7lb) so clearly there is some room for improvement on the weight front. This is still very much technology in its infancy though, so we don’t doubt improvements can and will be made.
“It took some time to master aluminium printing, which is more challenging than other metals, but the outcome was a convincing strong and lightweight bike. After the initial technical challenges were solved, it was amazing to see the turnover speed from idea to final product. It is exciting, I can’t wait to see a whole family of these bikes rolling off the MX3D production line!” Says project leader Thomas Van Glabeke.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this project is that fact a frame and fork can be produced in just 24-hours. Imagine a future where you order a custom frame and it's ready the following day.
The other big benefit of this manufacturing process is the ability to customise the frame to each rider. MX3D says its software allows the frame to be tailor-made to fit the rider. Send them your fit data and you'll get a precisely made frame.
That software then sets a robotic arm into motion and a frame is produced within 24-hours. After printing the frame is prepared for riding with drilling used for the head tube, bottom bracket and saddle fixings.
When asked about the advantages of this process for producing a bike over conventional frame manufacturing, Thomas says: "First, there is the customization aspect; the generative design software adjusts the frame to the riders body dimensions. In this way, every frame is customised and tailor-fit for the rider. Making custom frames could sound labour-intensive, but - because the whole printing process is automated - it takes the same time to produce 100 identical bicycles as 100 entirely different bicycles, so mass customization is not an issue.
We asked the company if they have plans to sell the bike. "We are a 3D printing company that develops and sells the software to print large scale metal objects," explains project leader Thomas van Glabeke. "The hardware we use is standard industrial robots and welding machines. Currently, we sell the software and we do print-on-demand services. These projects range from artworks to architectural elements to (large) metal components for the maritime/mining/oil & gas/heavy industry. So we are not necessarily focused on printing bicycles but we do take orders for them!"
The company aims to make the Arc Bike II available to purchase soon. No price has been set but you can order yours at projects [at] mx3d.com.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.