Printing bicycle parts not one dimensional
It’s been labelled the bicycle of the future — and it’s being created right here in Perth.
Matt Andrew, the founder of four-man Perth company Flying Machine, constructs bicycles using parts created by 3-D printers.
The company constructed its prototype in February after 12 months of research and has since created nine machines using the new technique.
But with the lugs, or set of parts, costing $1200 a set for one bike — and the average price for a Flying Machine bike coming in around $4000 — why is it better than a “normal” bike?
“The advantage of using 3-D printing comes down to the custom sizing, ” Mr Andrew says from his Burswood studio. “If you’re going to spend that much on a bike, you want to make it custom fitted for you.
“Having something that fits you really well makes a big difference to the quality of the ride and how much you enjoy it.”
Only a handful of bicycle makers in the world are currently using the 3-D technology, however Mr Andrew predicts it will become more common as the price and availability of the machines come into the mainstream.
Mr Andrew, a former architect and project manager, says that before this year the cost issue had been the brick wall preventing him from going all out on the technology.
He says that after years of looking into 3-D printing for his fledgling bicycle business, a chance encounter with a CSIRO project led him to make the next step.
“I heard a radio story about the CSIRO making a 3-D printed titanium horse shoe for $600 a set, ” he explains.
“The best price previously we had got for one set of parts was about $US3000 — so we figured out they were using a different machine . . . We now use that machine to get the lugs printed in Melbourne, and it’s just taken off.”
Although Mr Andrew only creates one element of the bike with a 3-D printer, one European company has printed a whole bicycle with the technology as a demonstration, costing about $40,000.
So how many years away is an affordable, wholly 3-D printed bike?
“It’s very hard to say, ” Mr Andrew says. “I went to a 3-D printing conference in Melbourne and one of the quotes, I think it came from Bill Gates, said people overestimate what will happen in 50 years but underestimate what will happen in two.
“But it’s definitely coming. And we’d love to print them in-house in the future and make the bikes our main product, but the machine costs $1.6 million, so that may be a little way off.”
VIDEO: Development engineers in Filton attempt to 3D print a bicycle
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