Weight is a key component of a bicycle the lighter a bike is the less effort will have to be made to create motion. By designing and manufacturing weight saving parts through 3D printing designers and manufacturers are looking at the role 3D printing could play in bicycle design. 3D printing lets you create shapes that you can not make with another technology. This lets you make mesh like structures for example that have been specifically designed to handle the forces that are entrusted to them while skimping as much as possible on material usage. This increases the bicycle’s performance while minimizing the amount of raw material that goes into it. By using FEA (Finite Element Analysis) tools bicycle designers can analyze and create these kinds of optimal structures. New ways of approaching a bike frame or individual components can be explored. Space frame structures can be explored using 3D printing also The bike frame itself can also be made of one part, this could in and of itself minimize weight as well. Currently many people are sticking to past design paradigms in bicycles but in the future one could also potentially rethink the entire bicycle design using 3D printing.
Investment in Tooling
3D printing is the fastest way to go from an idea to a design to a part. The printer can on demand create a new design the next day or over the next few days. This is completely different from other manufacturing methodologies which would necessitate up front investments in tooling and things such as molds. This can be an advantage to bicycle manufacturers in the future, letting them produce more versatile designs more expensively. At the moment most 3D printed bicycles are experimental. The very nature of 3D printing allows for this experimentation. A single designer can with an idea print out this idea cost effectively. This has lead to a lot of people being able to experiment with 3D printing bicycles.
Automated Production of Bicycle Parts
Currently 3D printed bicycle components and frames are much more expensive than conventionally manufactured ones. 3D printing becomes expensive when one makes large parts. Large parts require time in your machine and many layers to be 3D printed. Materials are also very expensive at the moment. With metal 3D printing, getting to your first metal 3D printed parts is expensive. Series production in metal is more affordable but more expensive than traditional methods. By constructing the entire bicycle frame and parts such as lugs in one production run however the process becomes more automated. At scale this could lead to producing bicycles with much less labor than with traditional manufacturing methods. At the moment these efficiencies are not there yet but they could be realized with bicycle manufacturing in large quantities using 3D printing.