For a long time, Cycling was and still is an enjoyable activity. It’s not hard to understand why it is so attractive. The relaxation of slowly changing scenery, which not only calms your mind but also lets you enjoy the small details of the landscape that catch your eye along the way. Most importantly, you can use your bike all around your city as a free, fast and eco-friendly transportation. Moreover, if you don’t skip the leg day at your gym, you’ll be easily able to travel longer distances, which will surely benefit your health.
For cyclists and those who are familiar with the activity, there are few things worse than getting a flat tire halfway through the ride. Getting hit by a car would without a doubt be more problematic, but as far as injury-free scenarios go, a sudden flat tire is the most frustrating experience.
Luckily, someone found a working solution to this problem and it is as promising as it looks. German startup BigRep has managed to find a solution for the problem, by creating a 3D printed airless bicycle tires. The startup has already successfully created a working prototype and took the innovation to the streets of Berlin to show it off.
Now if you’re thinking like Fry from Futurama “shut up and take my money”, then you’re going to be disappointed. Unfortunately, the project’s true goal was not to solve deflatable tire problem, but rather to show possibilities of a fast and precise large-scale 3D printing. Especially showcase the possibilities of BigRep ONE and BigRep studio, which allows designers and engineers to create large 3D dimensions with low cost.
These constructions, being low cost, can be made in different shapes and sizes, like robots or vehicles. So basically, pretty much everything becomes possible. Of course, 3D printers were not the only technology the company wanted to promote. The second goal of this project was to illustrate the versatility of the company’s thermoplastic polyurethane Pro FLEX filament as well.
Okay, let’s go technical here
By now you’re probably wondering, how did they do it? The answer lies in the construction of the tire. BigRep were able to replace “air” in the tire by customizing the pattern to be one of a three-layered honeycomb design. This design can be altered for different biking needs and requirements. These requirements are different speed and weather conditions and different biking activities, like mount biking and road racing.
According to the BigRep CEO Stephan Beyer “There are lots of cases where flexible parts are being customized and printed on a needs basis, across med-tech, aerospace, automotive and other industries”. Airless tire design is not something new; Michelin has created the design of their one, which works in the same way, by replacing the air inside a tire with complex support structures.
While these tires might look nothing special, they are actually very hard to create. The reason is the structure and the pattern of the design. Even small changes to the infill percentage or pattern can lead to different results in terms of performance and that’s why the accuracy is the keystone of success in this design. Since BigRep wanted to show their product capabilities, they used their large-scale 3D printer and their latest filament Pro Flex.
Their BigRep ONE has one cubic meter build volume and very high precision in detailed printing, making it an ideal instrument for the task. For the materials, they used thermoplastic polyurethane. This filament separates itself from other 3D printing filaments for its unique flexible properties, high-temperature resistance, and durability, letting it alter different structures for different biking needs. These two technologies used together made the design a working prototype.
When BigRep was founded in 2014, their intentions were to transform 3D manufacturing and printing business. Knowing that it’s a bit disappointing to know that this working prototype won’t hit the shops just yet. Either way, let’s not give up on this cyclist dream and support the creators on social media and their website. Let’s show them love and appreciation for their hard work and maybe one day we’ll see these tires in the local bike shop!