Additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) is going to change the motorcycle industry – and industry in general – in a big way. Rapid prototyping materials are already changing how we develop new products, and as cost, sophistication, and quality increases, we can see this technology turning manufacturing completely on its head. It is exciting to watch.
For the motorcycle industry, this means that there will come a day when all you need to do to get a new part for your motorcycle is to download the design from the OEM, and “print” it out at home or at a local 3D printing facility.
This will fundamentally change the role of dealerships and how we design and build motorcycles. I cannot emphasize this point enough. The day of this industrial revolution just got a little closer today too, as we see what is being dubbed as the world’s first completely 3D printed motorcycle.
Everything on the motorcycle you see here is made from additive manufacturing technology, everything except the electronics, that is. Yes, even the airless tires (using the term loosely) are 3D printed, along with the frame, bodywork, suspension (if you can call it that).
While the future of the motorcycle industry almost certainly includes 3D printing, the applications of additive manufacturing perhaps don’t reach quite as far as this design suggests…at least that will be the reality for the foreseeable future.
Watching this bike skittle across the road, seemingly ready to tuck the front wheel at any moment (the video looks sped-up too), it is clear that although you “can” that is not the same as you “should”.
This is of course because the NERA motorcycle is a two-wheeled advertisement for 3D printer maker BigRep and its consultancy group NOWLAB. As we all know, headlines are better when we can use superlative in them, and as such they are much more alluring when they say that something is completely made from additive manufacturing.
While we wouldn’t even want to go around the block on their creation, you have to give credit where credit is due: we are looking at the future of motorcycle production right here.
I don’t think Öhlins, Brembo, Marchesini, Pirelli and all the similar brands for these component types need to worry about their replacement, but the day will come when we see major chassis pieces on production motorcycle coming from giant 3D printers.
Energica already touts such pieces on its electric motorcycle offering. BMW just surpassed one million printed components, most of which are used on its i8 supercar.
As we see here in the video from NOWLAB, additive manufacturing is still a bit of a gimmick, but the day is rapidly arriving when it will be the method of choice for serious vehicle production. Stay tuned.