Swiss firm TE Connectivity (formerly Tyco Electronics Ltd.) has produced what it claims to be the world’s first fully-operational 3D-printed motorcycle. The motorcycle made its public debut last month in Long Beach, Calif., at Rapid 2015, a showcase of 3D printing technology.
The claim itself is a bit misleading, as several key parts such as the electric motor, electronics, drive belt, brakes, kickstand and various bolts were made from conventional materials. Nearly everything else is made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic while other parts, such as the headlight assembly, were made of bronze cut using a direct laser sintering 3D printing process.
According to TE Connectivity, the motorcycle is 8 feet long and weighs 250 pounds and can carry two people but the motor only produces 1hp, enough to reach a claimed maximum speed of just 15 mph. But that’s beside the point.
TE Connectivity didn’t build this bike to put it into production; the point of the exercise is to demonstrate the potential for 3D printing as a method of producing finished components capable of bearing real-world loads. Helping to prove the point, the original motorcycle was actually damaged during transport and the model displayed at Rapid 2015 was the second version with some improvements made to the motor mounts. The original prototype took 16 hours to assemble by two to three people but for the second iteration, the process was reduced to 8 hours.
Speaking to 3DPrint.com, TE’s Charles Fry says the biggest challenge was producing the wheels. TE tested the wheel bearings at speeds of up to 2000 rpm then constructed the rims so that they could be fitted with fully-inflated tires.