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3D printed, electric motorcycle is 30 percent lighter

25 May 2016

The world’s first 3D printed motorcycle, made using APWorks’ Scalmalloy material, weighs in at just 35kg, making it 30 percent lighter than conventional motorbikes.

The Light Rider (Credit: APWorks)

Dubbed the Light Rider, the new APWorks (a subsidiary of the Airbus Group) design has truly earned its name as a lightweight in its class. With a 6kW electric motor powering it from zero to 80km per hour in just seconds and a frame boasting a mere 6kg, the world’s first 3D printed electric motorcycle is 30 percent lighter than conventionally manufactured e-motorcycles.

3D-printing technologies have revolutionised the design and manufacturing process – not only in terms of structure and aesthetics, but also in impressive weight savings on parts and equipment when compared to those made using conventional manufacturing techniques.

APWorks used an algorithm to develop the Light Rider’s optimised structure to keep weight at a minimum while ensuring the motorcycle’s frame was strong enough to handle the weight loads and stresses of everyday driving scenarios. The result: a motorcycle that looks more like an organic exoskeleton than a machine. That was a very deliberate design goal for APWorks, which programmed the algorithm to use bionic structures and natural growth processes and patterns as the basis for developing a strong but lightweight structure. 

The Light Rider’s design echoes the form of a conventional motorcycle – but looks like a distant relative of today’s motorbikes. “The complex and branched hollow structure couldn’t have been produced using conventional production technologies such as milling or welding,” said Joachim Zettler, CEO of Airbus APWorks. “Advances in additive layer manufacturing have allowed us to realise the bionic design we envisioned for the motorcycle without having to make any major changes. With these technologies, the limitations facing conventional manufacturing disappear,” he added.  

APWorks used its own proprietary material (Credit: APWorks)

Each 3D printed part of the Light Rider’s frame – produced using a selective 3D laser printing system that melts millions of aluminium alloy particles together – consists of thousands of thin layers just 60 microns thick. Leveraging the benefits of 3D printing technology, APWorks designed frame parts that were hollow instead of solid, which has allowed for integrated cables, pipes and screw-on points in the finalised motorcycle structure – resulting in a dramatic 30 percent weight reduction over motorcycles produced using conventional manufacturing techniques.

“We further harnessed the benefits of metallic 3D printing by using our own proprietary material, Scalmalloy, for the construction of the frame,” said Zettler. Scalmalloy is a corrosion-resistant aluminium alloy that is virtually as strong as titanium. Specifically developed for ALM-based production, the material combines high strength with an extraordinary level of ductility, making it an especially interesting material to use for highly solicited parts in lightweight robotics, automotive and aerospace applications.

You don’t have to wait long for the chance to ride the motorcycle of the future: APWorks is offering a limited production run of 50 Light Riders for sale, which can be pre-ordered at www.lightrider.apworks.de


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