3D printing has plenty of potential within the motorcycle industry, so much so that Tom Simpkins from Stanley R Harris, the auto parts & vehicle equipment specialists, decided to take a look at some exciting innovations being produced from additive manufacturing.

Starting from humble beginnings, 3D printing technology has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last decade or so. 3D printing is utilised in a myriad of different industries and businesses, so much so that it’s technically classified as ‘additive manufacturing’.

Additive manufacturing has, so far, created everything from simple toys to sophisticated prosthetics, with the technology bleeding over into the unlikeliest of realms. The news was in an uproar over the world’s first 3D printed gun, humanitarians were elated by the development of a 3D printed house and the world relished 3D printed chocolate, but these advancements leave one big question lingering in the air.

What’s next for additive manufacturing?

When it comes to the world of automobiles, both cars & motorcycles, that question is already being answered. Titans of the industry, such as BMW, Ford & GM, have been making good use of this technology for years, with each new prototype building on its predecessor’s shoulders. Small plastic parts moved onto replacement auto parts, which then progressed to internal frameworks before finally evolving into major car parts, such as engines, proving that the advancement of 3D printing is inevitable.

With entire companies dedicating themselves to this tech for the motor industry, such as the Israeli 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, many have begun to wonder what kind of innovations are awaiting the motorcycle industry in specific. The good news is that some of these exciting changes are already well-under production, ranging from efficient cost-cutting solutions to virtually reinventing the wheel.

Image Courtesy of BigRep GmbH

The NERA E-Motorcycle

Arguably one of the most impressive advancements of 3D printing is creating a sleek & stylish e-motorcycle from scratch. Developed by NOWLAB by Marco Mattia Cristofori with Maximilian Sedlak for BigRep, the NERA E-Motorcycle is fully 3D printed and features embedded electronics & airless tyres as well as a flexible bumper & forkless steering. It also looks objectively amazing, almost as if it drove straight out of a Christopher Nolan Batman film.

Of course, a marvel such as a completely 3D printed e-motorcycle isn’t available to everybody. Sadly you can’t just download the blueprints to this and jet off from home, as the NERA E-Motorcycle is still a prototype; a functional prototype but still a prototype. Criticisms have emerged online, pointing out various arguments such as potential wind-resistance issues and the lack of any technical information about top speeds, but most agree that this is an incredibly impressive & promising first step into a brave new world.

It’s also worth noting that although it appears to be 100% 3D printed some elements can’t be printed, namely the embedded electronics. The motor, cables, battery and control systems cannot be printed, though thanks to the innovative nature of the NERA E-Motorcycle’s design these embedded electronics can easily be adjusted individually to adhere to custom settings.

When discussing the NERA E-Motorcycle Daniel Büning, the Co-Founder & Managing Director of NOWLAB, expressed confidence in the prototype. “Our NERA E-Motorcycle is the perfect example of the disruptive capabilities of additive manufacturing in the mobility sector,” he explained. “The bike is the result of a radical new approach to product development; seamlessly spanning digital simulation to custom manufacturing.”

“We push the limits of engineering creativity to reshape additive manufacturing technology as we know it.”

Image Courtesy of BORN

Cost Cutting Innovations

One of the most common applications for additive manufacturing is by crafting custom parts; whether it’s for saving time, money or just for added creative flair. This practical application isn’t exclusive to motorcycles and is frequently becoming commonplace for car manufacturers. Kevin Quinn, GM’s Director of Additive Design and Manufacturing believes that 3D printed car parts will appear in “high-end motorsports applications over the next five years” and that “tens of thousands of parts” will improve in quality as well as quantity.

The adaptation of materials is also an ever-changing and exciting development, with one particularly noteworthy examples including Divergent 3D. Divergent 3D has opted to develop special, material-specific technology that has been designed to use aluminium alloy powder as a raw material, instead of using the conventional range of plastics. Similar innovations and success stories have come from the motorcycle industry too, especially from the likes of BORN, an upgrade kit specialist, and Joost Motoren, a BMW specialist.

Both companies have sung praises about just how efficient & valuable developments in additive manufacturing have been to both them as companies and their customers. Ben Schilperoort, the CEO of Joost Motoren CEO, is particularly vocal on just how cost-effective 3D printing has been for his company, claiming that the costs for creating motorcycle parts are as drastically reduced as 90%. “You think of 3D printing at first as just a prototyping tool, but for a lot of companies it is an end-use process,” Schilperoort explains. “Thanks to 3D printing we are able to create a bespoke motorcycle part, as well as offer an affordable and fast service.”

BORN has also boasted of just how much 3D printing has innovated their manufacturing process, explaining by using a dash housing for a Honda CB25 as a perfect example. First, the costs (i.e. labour, materials & a service fee) would usually amount to approximately 1500€ per part if made by hand, or 250€ if made by a machine, yet by making use of 3D printing these costs lower to the astonishingly low 6€. Likewise, the lead time is reduced by a staggering amount too, roughly taking 24 hours by hand yet only 5 to 8 hours when created via additive manufacturing.

Image Courtesy of Vins Motors

Road & Race Worthy; the Duecinquanta

Finally, there’s one of the most impressive developments in additive manufacturing yet; the road-legal & race ready Duecinquanta Competizione. Created by Vincenzo Mattia, the CEO & Founder of Vins Motors, the Duecinquanta Competizione is a true marvel of engineering and, frankly, a stunning piece of machinery that can give a lot of bikes on the market today a good run for their money.

Not unlike the NERA E-Motorcycle, the Duecinquanta Competizione is a fully 3D printed bike, however, it differs in two major ways; it’s not an e-motorcycle, and it’s fully road-legal. More impressive is that it’s not just capable of driving out on the roads, as a race-worthy version has also been developed.

The bike was created by utilising a wealth of different materials, such as the engineering-grade thermoplastic Polybutylene terephthalate, as well as additive manufacturing technology used by sports behemoths like Ferrari, including the Zortrax M300. The result is one of the, if not the lightest road sports bike currently being manufactured.

When asked why he pursued additive manufacturing for his projects, Mattia explained: “I wanted to see, to touch, every single part coming off the drawing board; 3D printing with the Zortrax M300 made that possible.” Mattia also elaborated on just how powerful the Duecinquanta Competizione is, with a 288cc engine and a 1 horsepower to 1kg power to weight ratio, stating; “What this means is that in Duecinquanta everything comes instantly. You have instant power, instant throttle response and instant acceleration.”

Truly, the Duecinquanta Competizione is something worthy of pride, and Mattia and Vins Motors should certainly be proud of this innovation in additive manufacturing. There are more advancements to be made with this cutting edge technology, and with each new mind and manufacturer giving their unique takes on 3D printing there’s sure to be more exciting developments in the motorcycle industry just around the corner.

Written by Tom Simpkins of Stanley R Harris, auto parts & vehicle equipment specialists.

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