Mechanical engineering students from the Aalborg University Esbjerg have used a BigRep ONE to 3D print a functional bike frame in one piece. PhD doctorate Peter Riddersholm Lauridsen shares an inside look at this project, and explains how 3D printing enables students to hone their engineering skills.
In universities across the world, 3D printing is becoming an integral tool for students in the field of engineering and design. As many projects have shown, this technology has lead to the actualization of some big ideas, and that innovation is only amplified when a gigantic 3D printer like the BigRep ONE rolls onto campus.
The German manufacturer BigRep is known for its mammoth industrial-grade FDM 3D printers, its flagship being the BigRep ONE. This machine offers a 1005 x 1005 x 1005 mm build volume, dual-extrusion capabilities, auto-leveling, and the list of features goes on… Needless to say, the production scale leads to nearly limitless creative possibilities. We even collaborated with BigRep on a gigantic 3D printed fidget spinner back when they were all the rage.
Mechanical engineering students from the Aalborg University Esbjerg in Denmark are currently using the BigRep ONE for their own unique project. Led by PhD doctorate Peter Riddersholm Lauridsen, the goal is to 3D print a functional bicycle frame in a single piece.
We talked to Lauridsen about why his team opted to create a 3D printed bicycle frame for their semester project. He explains that there are many factors an engineer must be aware of, such as the load carrying structure, material properties, dynamic loading on structures, and improving performance with new materials.
“A bike is a simple mechanical construction and obvious to use in a project. The idea was to design a topology optimized bike frame because 3D-printing makes it possible to make these complex structures. In the university, we have bought a BigRep ONE that makes it possible to print the bike frame in one piece. That was also one of the reasons why I specifically was going for a bike frame in the semester project,” says Lauridsen.
Looking for a material that is easy to print with, the bicycle frame is printed in orange PLA. The mechanical engineering team successfully printed the frame on their first try. In the future, they plan to repeat the project with a stricter focus on material performance and topology optimization.
Despite being produced in plain PLA, Lauridsen claims that the bike frame is able to carry at least 90 kg of weight and works under certain conditions. In fact, the PhD doctorate states that this bike can be used to transport yourself around the university. He believes that the mechanical capabilities of a 3D printed bike frame will only improve as time goes on and the technology advances.
“I think it will be possible to design a usable 3D printed bike frame. The technology in the field evolves quickly and in a few years will this be possible. The print materials are also getting stiffer due to the added glass fibers and carbon fibers. Hopefully is it possible in near future to print with even higher percentage of glass fibers or carbon fiber in the filament,” Lauridsen concludes.
During the next semester, each student will have their own 3D printer to further explore the technology. For the mechanical engineers at Aalborg University Esbjerg, the BigRep ONE displays a large and open window into what will be possible in the future, as well as what engineering feats can be accomplished today.
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