From the Parisians who designed the world’s first-ever fully functional digitally manufactured bicycle comes the real test: How does this 3-D printed bike hold up over the long haul — say, a 600-mile American road ride from Vegas to San Francisco – with variable weather?
“We were confident in the bike’s durability, but you can never know what will happen before a serious test ride,” Alexandre d’Orsetti, who traded off test riding the rig with design partner Piotr Widelka, told GrindTV.
“During the trip, we realized a few small things we could improve, such as the tubes not perfectly being kept together by the connectors, but it was easy to repair.”
Seventy percent of the bike was printed in aluminum, carbon fiber and titanium or laser cut by Bay Area-based 3-D printing service bureau Sculpteo, a global leader in digital manufacturing.
But the bike, designed and constructed in seven weeks, is all modular. In fact, the team boxed and reassembled it recently at tech mecca CES.
“For instance, we created connectors for each joint of the bike that we 3-D printed, and these helped us to perfectly adjust the angles of the frame to our morphology for an affordable price,” d’Orsetti says.
“That’s the magic of 3-D printing: You can invent a functional part and keep reproducing the same working part for future projects!”
But to demonstrate how a bold idea for a printed bike translates to the real world, the Sculpteo team needed a road trip to test the modern ride’s strength, durability and viability.
“The trip went perfectly well and fulfilled its purpose; all of the 3-D printed parts sustained the journey in spite of the shocks of the road, strong wind, rain, cold and ups and downs,” Widelka says.
During the journey, however, the road test became less about components and more about community. “People were friendly and happy to help everywhere, and we really enjoyed these unexpected meetings around each corner,” says d’Orsetti.
One of the team’s most memorable moments took place near Santa Cruz, California, where they stopped to change a bike part and started talking 3-D printing with a local senior citizen.
“He said that he would never [have] believed that our bike was 3-D printed if he had not seen it, because he only believes what he sees with his own eyes,” Widelka says.
“This reminded us of the importance of sharing our story, because for so many people, when it comes to something new, seeing really is believing.”
For now, the design team is back in Paris tinkering on small improvements, but given how the 3-D bike held up over the long haul, they have decided to keep the initial design intact.
For d’Orsetti, the revolution is underway: “The 3-D printing industry is changing so fast, and with new materials and new printers, we hope that anyone could have an affordable, custom-made bike in a couple of years.”