In a “world-first” project, large-format 3D printing provider BigRep has created a full-scale, functional, airless bicycle tire.
Created as a custom modification for the exclusive Globe Centrum sport bike, the tire showcases the capabilities of BigRep’s new PRO FLEX material, taking cues from the wider manufacturer community that typically uses TPU-based tools to manufacture RC model car tires. Uses filaments.
According to BigRep product designer Marco Mattia Cristofori, the brains behind the Centrum’s project and test rider, the 3D-printed tires gave a “very smooth ride.”
design without limits
The airless bicycle tire was FFF 3D printed on a BigRep ONE 3D printer as a single piece, measuring 1005 mm x 1005 mm x 1005 mm (X x Y x Z). No exact details have been given about the dimensions of the tyres, although the Centrum bikes were built for it, typically sporting 26 x 1.5 inch tyres.
Without an inner tube, the tire resists deflation from punctures—a bane of many cyclists. It is made from Pro Flex material, spring and durable with excellent damping behavior, high temperature resistance and low temperature impact resistance.
Prior to the prototype bicycle tire, Cristofori also designed a 3D printed bigwrap wheel rim. Unlike the tire, the wheel rim was made on a BigRep Studio 3D printer, in high temperature resistant PRO HT filament, with a print volume of 500 mm x 1000 mm x 500 mm.
Explaining his idea for the wheel rim, Christofori says, “With 3D printing you can prototype organic forms, like our Terra chair.”
A smooth ride for airless tires
Although BigRep tires may be a first for bicycles, the airless tire concept is gaining traction in automotive.
Michelin first presented its idea for an airless, 3D printed, tire, combined with a “Print and Go” station, at the 2017 International Mobility Summit in Montreal, Canada, that would allow reprinting of roadside treads. Will give
Mustafa El-Olhani, the designer and head of the Vision Tire project at Michelin at the time of the incident, explained that the concept may not be as far off as it might seem; “We wanted the vision to be realistic because no purpose is served by designing goods or services that we know are unrealistic,”
“In contrast, Vision is possible because it is based on R&D information and we can already see future applications on which the group is now working. It is a promise that is within reach.”
Then, at the 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, competitor Goodyear responded to Michelin’s vision with the Oxygen concept.
A 3D printed tire that would provide a home for the air-cleaning moss was a concept created by Oxygen Goodyear to inspire green thinking in the automotive industry.
Currently, BigRep is not seeking commercial production of its airless tyres. For more on the company’s direction, read our interview with Rene Gurka, CEO and co-founder of BigRep.