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Welcome the First 3D Printed Functional Motorcycle
TE Connectivity replicated a Harley-Davidson Softail motorcycle by 3D printing it to demonstrate how advanced this technology has become.
However, the main goal behind this endeavor that took around 1,000 work hours and $25,000 is not to deliver just another 3D printed toy.
The TE Connectivity motorcycle is a fully-functional one, though equipped with a small electric motor. This all-ABS plastic bike can even carry two adults, though its on-road capabilities are rather limited by the modest power of the motor.
A 1 hp, 750W motor was installed at the heart of this contraption, and it can push the motorcycle to a decent 15 mph (24 km/h) speed. The battery is, however, a small one, so the usability of the motorcycle is limited to demonstrative purposes.
Of course, not the entire bike was 3D printed. The motor, battery pack, tires and their tubes, as well as the braking system, belt drive, and wiring harness have all been sourced elsewhere, for obvious reasons.
Still, this leaves us with a frame that accommodates the 3D printed rims. TE had to test these rims and make sure their beads will retain the tires after the tubes are inflated to the spec pressure. The fenders, steering head and clamps, and all the rest of the 8 ft-long (2.43 m) bike came to life on the trays of 3D printers.
While the speed or 400 lb (181 kg) carrying capacity may fail to make a strong impression on you, learning that the bike is actually rolling on 3D printed bearings surely will. These are the highest-risk components even incorporated in a similar build.
TE Connectivity designed these bearings as one of the strongest exponents of how far this technology has gone. Samples of the wheel bearings have been prototyped and then built for testing. They spun at 2,000 rpm in conditions similar to what a real-world ride would and passed the test in flying colors.
Now, this 3D printed Harley look-alike is not the bike you’d ride across the continent, at least not yet. It, however, serves as a great example of what can be obtained through 3D print technologies. Moreoever, the bike TE exhibited at the Rapid 2015 technology show is the second iteration, as the original one was damaged during transport. And the effortless repeatability of such items is only one of the convenient things that come with 3D printing.