Airbus unveils 3D-printed motorcycle with bionic design

Bike Design 27 May 2016
Airbus unveils 3D-printed motorcycle with bionic design

Airbus subsidiary APWorks has presented the ‘Light Rider’, the world’s first 3D-printed motorcycle, which uses advanced materials and manufacturing processes to achieve a total weight of just 35kg.


APWorks, a 100% subsidiary of Airbus Group, has been developing additive layer manufacturing (ALM) technologies since its launch in 2013. Now it  produces bionically optimized metal parts for a wide range of industries, from aerospace to automotive and robotics.

Airbus-APWorks 3D printed Light Rider bike

The Light Rider motorcycle is made using APWorks’ Scalmalloy® material. Powered by a 6 kW electric motor, the bike has a lightweight frame weighing just 6 kg, and is 30% lighter than conventionally manufactured e-motorcycles.

Airbus-APWorks 3D printed Light Rider bike

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 driving scenarios.

Airbus-APWorks Light Rider bike - 3D printed exoskeleton detail

As a result, the motorcycle 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.

APWorks is offering a limited production run of 50 Light Riders for sale, which can be pre-ordered at www.lightrider.apworks.de with a deposit of 2,000€ and a total price of 50,000€.

3D Printing Technology

Each 3D-printed part of the Light Rider’s frame is 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.

Airbus-APWorks Light Rider bike - 3D printed exoskeleton detail

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 finalized motorcycle structure resulting in a dramatic 30% weight reduction over motorcycles produced using conventional manufacturing techniques.

Airbus-APWorks Light Rider bike - 3D printed exoskeleton detail

“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.

Airbus-APWorks 3D printed Light Rider bike

The material used is a proprietary alloy called Scalmalloy®, a corrosion-resistant aluminum 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.

(Source: APWorks)

Image Gallery

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