If you’ve ever been in an airplane then you’re likely familiar with the name Airbus, and while flying metal tubes are what the company is best known for, the Airbus Group has its hands in far more industries than you think. Take the 3D printing world for instance. APWorks, an Airbus Group subsidiary, has been at the forefront of advanced materials and additive layers manufacturing since 2013, producing optimized metal parts for the automotive, aerospace, and robotics industries.
A motorcycle especially benefits from the use of lightweight yet strong materials, and APWorks believes it has met the difficult challenge of drastically reducing weight while maintaining strength with this, the Light Rider – a 3D-printed motorcycle.
Looking at it, you’d think the Light Rider was a glorified bicycle, with its Rock Shox suspension, fatty mountain bike knobby tires, and disc brakes, but that’s where the similarities end. A 6kW electric motor powers the Light Rider to 50 mph and its housed in a frame that’s really the centerpiece of the entire operation.
Though the overall bike weighs 77 lbs, the frame weighs in at 13 lbs. APWorks claims the frame of the Light Rider is 30% lighter than conventionally manufactured e-motorcycles. APWorks used an algorithm to develop the Light Rider’s optimized 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 riding. The result you see here looks like something you’d find in a Sci-Fi flick, with its exoskeleton shape. This was entirely intentional, as APWorks tailored the algorithm to use organic structures as the basis for the frame.
Each 3D-printed part of the Light Rider’s frame – produced using a selective 3D laser printing system that melts millions of aluminum alloy particles together – consists of thousands of thin layers just 60 microns thick. Leveraging the benefits of 3D-printing technology, the frame spars are hollow, allowing cables, pipes, and screw-on points to be integrated within.
“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 GmbH. “Advances in additive layer manufacturing have allowed us to realize 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.
Zettler continues, “We further harnessed the benefits of metallic 3D printing by using our own proprietary material, Scalmalloy, for the construction of the frame. Scalmalloy is a corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy that is virtually as strong as titanium.”
APWorks plans to make a small batch of 50 Light Riders available for pre-order, all of which will be fully road legal. Price? A mere €50,000, or $55,000 in U.S. dollars. Visit the Light Rider website for more information.