Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Airbus APWorks launches Light Rider 3D-printed motorcycle

May 26, 2016
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

May 26, 2016 – From robotic parts to aircraft interiors, home decor to medical prosthetics, 3D printing is quickly becoming a manufacturing technology embraced by multiple industries. APWorks, a subsidiary of Airbus Group, is just one company that is working to produce bionically optimized metal parts for a range of industries. Its newest creation is what it’s calling the world’s first 3D-printed motorcycle.

Made using APWorks’ Scalmalloy material, the Light Rider electric motorcycle weighs 77 pounds and goes 50 mph (80 kph) with a 6 kW electric motor. According to the company, the Light Rider is 30 per cent lighter than conventionally manufactured e-motorcycles.

“3D-printing technologies have revolutionized 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,” says the company. APWorks used an algorithm to develop the Light Rider’s structure in hopes of keeping the 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, says 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 complex and branched hollow structure couldn’t have been produced using conventional production technologies such as milling or welding,” says 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.”  

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 layers 60 microns thick. The frame parts are hollow instead of solid, says APWorks, allowing for integrated cables, pipes and screw-on points in the finalized motorcycle structure.


“We further harnessed the benefits of metallic 3D printing by using our own proprietary material, Scalmalloy, for the construction of the frame,” says Zettler.

The company is now offering a limited production run of 50 Light Riders.

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