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Transportation Technology

EADS Bicycle Made of Steel-Strength Nylon 95

Posted by timothy
from the nylon-worthy-of-fetish dept.
Zothecula writes "Engineers from the Bristol wing of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) have announced the development of the first bicycle using Additive Layer Manufacturing (ALM) technology. The manufacturing process involves 'growing' the components from a fine nylon powder, similar in concept to 3D printing. Said to be as strong as steel, the end product is claimed to contain only a fraction of the source material used by traditional machining, and the process results in much less waste. It also has the potential to take manufacture to precisely where the component or product is needed, instead of being confined to factories often located a great distance away."
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EADS Bicycle Made of Steel-Strength Nylon

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  • Video demonstration (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12664422

    • Very interesting, but this kind of manufacturing is still incredibly slow and expensive. This is still proof of concept for consumer items, except for things like costly custom World of Warcraft figures. Several hours of machine time per part is expected, probably overnight for many of them. If you need to charge $1 to $2 a minute on the machine, you can tell costs can add up very quickly. Injection molded parts can be made in seconds, large one half a minute per cycle, Where it is useful is if rapid pr

      • by unassimilatible (225662) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:40PM (#35447612) Journal
        "this kind of manufacturing is still incredibly slow and expensive. This is still proof of concept for consumer items"

        Spoken like a non-cyclist. The most lucrative market in bicycles isn't cheap commodity bikes like Schwinns, it's in lightweight road enthusiast and racing bikes. Price isn't the determining factor, which is why bicycle companies can charge thousands for carbon fiber frames [trekbikes.com].

        Besides, if adopted, economy of scale would drop price dramatically. Prototypes are always more expensive than real-world products. CINC machines used to cost millions. Now I know a guy with one in his home's garage - he machines custom CAD-designed copper evaporator heads for phase-change computer cooling units.
        • by svirre (39068)

          "The most lucrative market in bicycles isn't cheap commodity bikes like Schwinns"
          Do you have references for this. In most markets it is the low end that contributes the most to the bottom line simply because the volumes are magnitudes higher than the high-end.

          "Besides, if adopted, economy of scale would drop price dramatically"
          Of course, economies of scale will in practical terms mean replacing the printed parts with injection molded parts. Economies of scale isn't magic. In practical terms it means you can

          • by mikkelm (1000451)

            That's a fairly outrageous claim. If you're changing an integral part of the product, then what you're doing isn't scaling the economy of manufacturing, but rather manufacturing a different product. Economy of scale isn't magic, no. It's being able to move quantities sufficient to negotiate with suppliers for better volume deals, and being able to make large capital expenditures that lower manufacturing costs.

          • "Do you have references for this. In most markets it is the low end that contributes the most to the bottom line simply because the volumes are magnitudes higher than the high-end."

            Well, in the US, Trek dominates, and Schwinn was sold at bankruptcy auction. Obviously, in developing countries, they want cheap-ass commodity bikes.

            "Of course, economies of scale will in practical terms mean replacing the printed parts with injection molded parts. Economies of scale isn't magic"


            I never suggested magic.
          • Economies of scale will apply *to the printer itself*. That's the interesting part.

        • by JDevers (83155)

          Now I know a guy with one in his home's garage - he machines custom CAD-designed copper evaporator heads for phase-change computer cooling units.

          What you know is a guy who makes evaporator heads for ethanol stills I bet ;)

        • "this kind of manufacturing is still incredibly slow and expensive. This is still proof of concept for consumer items" .

          Spoken like a non-cyclist

          Dunno. This just looks like a different way to make a sloppy plastic frame. I can't imagine anybody riding 100km on the bike in the article.

    • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12664422

      Did that horrible sound at the end of the video come from the bike?

  • The Amnion taught them how to do it.
  • The concept sounds cool until you click the link and see the picture. What a letdown. That rubber band for a bike chain is dishearting.
    If there is real advantage in using this technology like this, they should build mutiple parts and assamble a real bike.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      The concept sounds cool until you click the link and see the picture. What a letdown.

      Dude, it's kevlar. What's wrong with kevlar?

    • by Omega2 (155298)

      It's a kevlar belt, they use them real bicycles as well. Even Trek makes a couple.

    • by ganktor (1448127) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:19PM (#35446768)
      If you had ever ridden a bike with a belt vs a chain, you wouldn't have even commented. They're awesome. So smooth and quiet.
      • I've ridden motorcycles with chain drive, belt drive, and shaft drive, and agree with you entirely -- chains suck compared to the others (but shaft is still better, with zero maintenance after 100K miles). Apparently there are also bicycles with shaft drive, [google.com] but I've never seen one.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      You have hated it when they added starters to automobile engines.

    • next time you're out, lift the bonnet/hood of your car and look at the various belts that drive the water pump, alternator etc. I had a belt driven proflex mountain bike once that used the belt from an MGF sports car. It would way outlast a chain - but it does have it's problems. They are not so good in wet muddy conditions and need to be under quite a lot of tension (compared to chain) and that's why they haven't really taken off on bikes.

  • by tagno25 (1518033) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:17PM (#35446736)

    Hi [redacted],

    Can you please send me an email to my work address: [redacted]. I have a number of attachments that you would probably appreciate. Just as an FYI, the bike is purely a demonstration of what you can do with 3D printing, which we call Additive Layer Manufacturing. The bike is 100% nylon plastic which (as opposed to what has been claimed by some news outlets) is strong enough to make a bike, but not as strong as steel! Obviously. The point is that with 3D printing you have almost complete design freedom in manufacturing (unrestricted by machining tools and by the high cost of tooling up in casting). In fact customisation would not add any (or very little) cost to manufactutring. Here is a link to our website & release: http://www.eads.com/eads/int/en/news/press.8d764849-d439-475b-93b3-3cc9a7d2ba20.70472f39-dd6f-4428-a792-91d82cb9791b.html [eads.com]
    Hope this helps...
    Al

    • Indeed, if you read the press release, the only significant mention of steel is that this new method allows for them to replace steel or aluminum components in the bike with nylon, but it doesn't make any statement regarding the relative strengths of the materials. In other words, it's strong enough for bikes (which allows you to allocate steel to other uses, instead of bikes), but not necessarily as strong as steel.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Why would I allocate steel to other uses?

        Nylon is made of oil, which is running out. Steel is made of iron, which will never run out.

        Find me a way to start making plastic things out of steel. Then you'll have the future in your hands.

        • Nylon is made of oil, which is running out. Steel is made of iron, which will never run out.

          Nylon is thermoplastic. You can make nylon stuff out of old nylon stuff.

          The melting point of nylon is about 220-265 C, depending on the type, while steel melts around 1425 - 1540 C. Seems like it's much easier to recycle nylon than steel.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Iron's not quite as abundant as you think; it's actually less abundant than aluminum. Sure, the core is full of the stuff, but we can't get to the core. Back before WWII, Imperial Japan was very interested in acquiring as much iron as possible for their war machine, and had to import it from other countries, IIRC. It's not like silicon, which is literally lying on beaches around the world. More importantly, creating steel from iron ore is a very energy-intensive process, which is why scrap iron and scra

      • Quite frankly, strength is not the major concern with bikes.

        Rigidity is the quality that most important. Very rigid bikes are too harsh to ride, very flexible ones are unstable, unresponsive and inefficient.

        Achieving a balance is the art in making a true fantastic bike. Rigid side to side for power transfer and more flexible on the z-axis for reasonable comfort is usually the holy grail.

    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      Thanks for the link!!!

      Not only can they do this with nylon, they can do it with TITANIUM! I'm wondering if their layering process is good enough to make bike tubes.

      Wow!! This post makes up for months of slashdot sludge!!!

      • by Laser Dan (707106)

        Titanium printing is extremely expensive though.

        I designed a ring and had a test print done in plastic, it was around US$25.
        I got a quote for the same ring in titanium and it was US$150ish.
        The cost for a bicycle frame or anything large is huge, but it is great for small things.

        Oh another thing, they can print in wax and do lost-wax castings which might be cheaper.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    To my tired old traditionalist eyes, the bike doesn't look very functional for anything. The seat is up and the handlebars are down. Does that mean it's intended for racing? Probably not. It just looks too uncomfortable for anything else. With its small wheels, it looks like something you would throw in the trunk of your car to take to the park to ride.

    So they can build a bike. It would be better if they built an awesome bike that was actually good for something.

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      My commuter bike is configured this way. It has nothing to do with racing, and everything to do with efficiency.

      Still, for a "cruiser" bike, you simply make the stem shorter. It's not like you need molds for every possible shape. Measure the rider, and feed the measurements into the computer, and they can come pick up their custom-made bike in an hour, made to their exact specifications.

      My only real concern is wearability. The kevlar belt will do OK, no doubt, but what about the crank and other moving p

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        little rocks are hell on kevlar belts.

      • It looks like it's printed in parts and assembled, so presumably if you wanted to replace the worn parts you'd just print those. Or you could print them in some sort of hard-wearing ceramic separately, or something. There are many ways to skin that cat.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        My only real concern is wearability. The kevlar belt will do OK, no doubt, but what about the crank and other moving parts? What happens when they wear out? Or do you just grind the whole bike (except the wheels) back to powder and make a new one (in which case, awesome recyclability, no pun intended).

        Recyclability is good, but reusability is better. Recycling uses a significant amount of energy, and it's better to either reuse parts, or better yet make parts durable so they last a long time and don't need

  • TFA says it's 65% lighter than when manufactured traditionally, but how light is that? This could be a good material for car body panels (or even structural components) if it's light, strong, affordable, rustproof, and fails safely.

    • by b0bby (201198)

      TFA is confused; the process can be used to make parts 65% lighter than traditional. The Economist has a much better article:
      http://www.economist.com/node/18114221?story_id=18114221 [economist.com]
      Companies like EADS are using these methods with stuff like titanium to make parts the shape they need to be for their function, not the shape they need to be for their function + manufacturing considerations. That's where a lot of the weight savings come in. This bike is just a tech demo.

  • was using ALM technology 15 years ago as manager of CAD/CAE group with various metals and plastics for rapid prototyping
    • by natehoy (1608657)

      I don't see anything claiming that this is a new technology. Only that the technology has developed to the point where its utility is not limited to prototyping, and it's becoming viable for full-on manufacturing.

      • by rubycodez (864176)
        the technology was not limited to prototyping 15 years ago either, it's just that beyond dozens or hundreds of parts, usually other manufacturing methods are more cost-effective. this would certainly include nylon parts
        • by natehoy (1608657)

          I believe the article is trying to say that the cost of ALM is coming down while the cost of materials and transportation continues to rise. So, at some point (probably soon), the savings in materials will exceed the cost of the ALM equipment, at least for certain products.

          Especially when you start talking about having generalized ALM equipment more local to you that can make whatever you need, instead of making it and shipping it great distances which costs in both energy and damage losses, not to mention

  • by mclearn (86140) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:37PM (#35446962) Homepage
    I recently saw a bamboo bicycle [calfeedesign.com] and was blown away by the look and feel. A biodegradable frame built out of material known for thousands of years to be highly durable and strong.
    • So it's both biodegradable and durable. That's quite an achievement!

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      "...A biodegradable frame built out of material known for thousands of years to be highly durable and strong..."

      You must be a 'cyclist'....second only to 'audiophiles' in their inability to parse numeric data when presented in association with the object of their obsession.

      You saw that, and were blown away. I was too.

      Of course, I was blown away because saw that a frame made of glorified GRASS cost $4200.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        Whew...neat looking thing till I saw the price...for freakin' bicycle?!?!?

        Hell...over $4K..that's a great down payment on a motorcycle!!!

        • by wrook (134116)

          I ride a bicycle for my main form of transport. I don't own any motorized vehicle (hell, I don't even have a driver's license in this country...)

          Like you say, $4K will make a down payment for a motorcycle. You've got insurance and gas to pay for as well. Although I've seen bicycles that cost as much as $13K, a $4K bike is a ridiculously good bike. And it only costs what you'd have to pay for a down payment on a motorcycle, or car. And maintenance costs are negligible.

          I live next to where I work. I alm

      • by Kaz Kylheku (1484)

        A bamboo frame is not a bicycle.

        I'd be impressed if they could make the sprockets and chain out of bamboo also, not to mention the wheels hubs, rims and spokes. :)

    • If you're interested in this, there are companies that will walk you through a two-day course in making your own bamboo bicycle. Make Magazine had an article on it recently [makezine.com]. Calfee's bamboo bikes ride wonderfully, even the crazy one using actual steerhorns as handlebars [mtbr.com] I've also gotten to ride a Boo Bicycles [boobicycles.com] frame, and it was lovely. They're flexier than the bikes I'm used to, and there are sometimes issues with homebuilt ones having the bamboo split lengthwise, but the commercial ones are awesome.

      • If you are more old-school and want to make a wicked cool bike out of steel, check out tomiczombies.com [atomiczombies.com].
        • He has a book full of those -- at least one -- that has complete plans for making maybe 15 different frames. I've done a couple and they're a lot of fun. It's a good way to learn to weld. Right now a deranged friend of mine and I are working on a sidecar we can stick on a BMX bike or a recumbent, because that'd fit right into the atomic zombie philosophy. I love his ultra-low racing recumbent but haven't gotten a chance to make one yet. Which is to say: fantastic book, get it, build some.

    • yea and at only 3,000 dollars it's affordable as well
      • by xaxa (988988)

        yea and at only 3,000 dollars it's affordable as well

        If cycling is your hobby $3000 isn't unreasonable. I know plenty of people that spend roughly that amount [tfl.gov.uk] every year on transport, so it could even be easy to justify.

        Personally, this year I expect I'll spend about £200 on bicycle-stuff (comprehensive insurance, a new chain, someone might steal my lights at some point, I'll probably impulse-buy something expensive, shiny and pointless, ...). That covers getting to and from work, and other associated journeys (e.g. shopping on the way home, meeting peo

    • Hardwood is also a real possibility. I am in the process of testing frames made of baltic birch ply, and have achieved 2.6 pound frames so far with good rigidity. It's not ground breaking, check out http://renovobikes.com/ [renovobikes.com] for real works of art that are very ridable.
  • Can you take it out of the garage in 10+ years or so. And run it down hill at 80km/h without it starts crumbling into granulate due to oxidation.
    Or even worse break into long pointy sharp fragments?

  • by greywire (78262) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:55PM (#35447768) Homepage

    There's one thing about this that nobody seems to be noticing, and that is how good this is from the perspective of companies that want to sell you more product... as opposed to you fixing your product, they'd rather you buy a new one.

    Huh?

    Did you read the part about how the bearings (I assume these were not made using the same process, but I am sure at some point they would be) are essentially embedded into the structure as it was built up around them? Guess what? That means you are SOL when they wear out.

    Products are already manufactured and assembled often going out their way to be difficult to disassemble to discourage repairs (at least by yourself; authorized repairs require special tools, etc). Imagine the future where, these awesome items are cool to look at and cheaper than ever to design, prototype and manufacture and oh by the way they are impossible to repair unless you want to recycle the whole thing because they are built up and around other components in such a way that its not possible to disassemble at all.

    Am I proposing there's some conspiracy here? of course not. But its nice and convenient for our throw away society and I am sure somebody's already realized this and is salivating at the thought of non-repairable items.

    • by Kaz Kylheku (1484)

      Did you read the part about how the bearings (I assume these were not made using the same process, but I am sure at some point they would be) are essentially embedded into the structure as it was built up around them? Guess what? That means you are SOL when they wear out.

      Just because the frame is grown around the original bearings doesn't mean that a way can't be developed to remove the old ones and replace them.

      You know your hip joint grew together with surrounding bone, yet we can replace that. :)

      At some point someone is going to want a new bearing, and someone will find a way of making this cheaper than a complete replacement, while earning a profit for himself.

    • It might make sense for the industry EADS is in, as maintenance of spacecraft is something very uncommon. So the question here might be, can this replace in reliability and efficiency some other materials in aerospace?
  • Resin and fibers (nylon, carbon, ...).

    The only news here is that process for growing from a nylon powder.

  • In other words, when it breaks, there's no way to fix it. And it looks like it will shatter the first time it crashes into something.

    Start doing ALM with metal or carbon and I'll be impressed.

  • Considering a bicycle company came into - and went out of - business in the late 70s with The Original Plastic Bicycle Company, with no reason to go out of business (great product, made of foamed Lexan except for the chain and the hubs) other than the unwillingness of the public to buy said product, I don't see any rosier future for this one.
  • I notice talk of "weight savings in the components" but somehow they never got around to telling me what that particular nylon bike weighs in total. That suggests, to me, that the non-component part of the bicycle (e.g., the frame) is not that light, so the entire bike's weight is not nearly so impressive.

    And this would be a big deal for a commuter-style bike like that; I played with a cheap folding bike once (Craigslist, yay) on a couple of trips, and the weight was a real issue whenever I was carrying

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