Two days ago, I went to the Griffith University AEL (Arts Education and Law) school final heat for the 3MT Competition.
There were 10 PhD candidates presenting – but one stood out for me.
James Novak is a Griffith University design graduate and is currently undertaking his PhD.
He was presenting his 3MT on his 4D pro-cycling helmet. It was very interesting to hear how this helmet functions differently in relation to how technology, engineering and design features use sensors to automatically respond to rider needs for air flow, temperature control and areodynamicism.
After James had presented, I saw signage for the AEL School to the side of the stage.
One of the pictures on it was a bicycle frame (see below). I was already chuffed that there was a presentation on bikes/cycling being the focus of PhD research and though it was schewing my view of reality. I turned to my friend and said “I see bicycles everywhere!” With James’ presentation still fresh in my mind, I quickly jumped online to see why the bike was featured on the poster.
Well, imagine my surprise when I find out that the bike is also one of James’ designs – and more so, that it was the world’s first 3D printed bike!
Background: James’ Previous work
He also has a range of other concepts, products, designs and prototypes that he has been working on- which you can see on on his blog Edditive Blog.
- I love his humourous and functional beer bottle lock (so useful for parties where you bring craft beer when everyone else is drinking VB!)
- InMoov Custom Mobile App -Arundio robot arm
- He has some funky figurines and playful trinkets as part of his costumes and toys repetoire – like the Star Wars Death Trooper and others like Marvin the Martin Ray Gun and a twist pen grip (which you can download)
- A Giant 3D-Printed SUP fin
To name just to name a few!
His blog also has tutorials and free downloads and when I spoke to him after his presentation, he was really keen on sharing, and exchanging information – which is something that he genuinely supports as evidenced through on his blog. You can also see more of his work on Instagram @edditive.
James Novak – World’s first 3D printed bicycle
Prior to his 4D cycling helmet, James had already been extending engineering and design applications by utilising 3D printing to produce the world’s first 3D printed bicycle.
James created this bike in 2014 and it has exhibited in Australia and overseas and in 2015. He was also awarded the prestigious Dick Aubin Distinguished Paper Award at the RAPID conference (Los Angeles) which is the world’s leading 3D printing industry event.
How did he do it?
The process of making the 2014 bike: “What does it takes to 3D print a large and complex object like this? Although he spent about 150 hours modeling the item in 3D on SolidWorks over a couple of weeks, he says modeling wasn’t the most difficult part of his 4-month project. According to James, what has taken the most time and energy was actually discovering what’s possible with 3D printing, understanding the limitations of this new manufacturing tool, and re-imagining the concept of the bike frame. For making things easier, James decided to print his design via our (i.materialise) professional online 3D printing service. After the bike frame was 3D printed in mammoth resin through i.materialise, the item was exhibited at a seminar in Brisbane, Australia this past July (2014)”.
The bike is custom designed specifically to James’ body dimensions and preferences.
HIs bike is a prototype and not yet ridable, but by designing and producing the bike, it invites future explorations and developments to work towards producing a fully functioning bike. It’s what I like to call a ‘gateway innovation’!
To this end, James’ view is that “3D printing has changed a whole range of manufacturing areas, but cycling is really interesting. The shape of the bike hasn’t changed a lot over the last 100 years, but everything else can be rethought and re-designed to take advantage of 3D printing technology. As 3D printing allows you to create one-off products, a design can be made specifically for a particular athlete. In the next few years, I imagine we’ll be printing this bike in titanium, or carbon fibre, and I’ll be the first one riding it down the street!”
It seems that James’ prediction for subsequent innovations have come true. Since Jame’s original 2014 innovation, there have been a number other ‘world first 3D printed bicycles’ – but each has a different aspect, such the 2015 world’s first titanium alloy 3D printed mountain bike. Or more recent road bikes developments such as the 3D printed road bike using 3D printing welding process or using different materials such as the 3d printed stainless steel bicycle – both of which came out last year (2016).
In discussing his bike and the video (1′ 56”) below, he also posted that “A lot of people look at me with a mixture of excitement and confusion when I tell them what I do for work, probably because it sounds a bit futuristic and weird. And it is! But hopefully this profile video prepared by Griffith University and the Gold Coast City Council will explain things a little better than I can, featuring my FIX3D Bike 3D printed by Materialise. I always get a kick from sharing my knowledge of 3D printing with kids still in school since it is really going to affect their lives in the most exciting ways; hopefully videos like this can inspire them to take up the careers of the future.”
What about future 3D Printing of bike frames?
As it is still in its infancy, the materials being used are very traditional like resin, plastics and metals. I’m very keen to see how the new generation of 3D printing materials could incorporate (more) sustainable materials into this space to explore how 3D printing bike frames can minimise wastage and demands on resources.
I’d be excited to see a 3D printed bike made of PLA, which is a sugar-derived polymer (for which other ‘green products’ have already been made and are in current world-wide usage and are “compostable” and “made from corn”). Could PLA be stable, durable and strong enough for a bike frame? If not PLA, then what other green material could be utilised?
If this could be accomplished, it would put a new spin on of my fav rainy day road riding quips – whereby if a friend says they won’t ride in the rain, my retort is “Your bike is not made of sugar, it is not going to dissolve in the rain! Lets ride!” – I hope I may have to change this adage accomodate future 3D printing inclusion of sustainable material innovations!
Ah, the future of 3D printed bike frames looms!