3D printed functioning motorcycle


The 3D-printed motorcycle, on display

TE Connectivity 3D prints a functioning motorcycle

Unveiled at Rapid 2015 in Long Beach, California, TE Connectivity’s exercise in 3D printing demonstrates the ability to design a motorcycle on a computer, print it in plastic, add tires and a motor, then take it for a spin. While the result may not quite be ready to hit the highway, the concept is still nothing short of exciting.

The steering head is the most heavily stressed part of the frame in any motorcycle, yet this plastic one can handle two-up riding Printing a wheel rim strong enough to hold an inflated tire is not an easy task This V2 is just a plastic mock-up, the real motor is hidden in the fake "oil tank" behind it All the electrical components work properly on TE's prototype motorcycle

Considering that fundamental parts such as the frame and wheel bearings are entirely printed in plastic, one would agree that TE’s goal to show that the technology can be used to manufacture load-bearing production parts has been achieved.

Modeled in a Harley-Davidson Softail fashion, the motorcycle measures around 8 ft (2.4 m) long, weighs 250 lb (113.4 kg) and consists of more components than its designers can account for. Its frame, printed after a process of trial and error, can support a total of 400 lb (181 kg) – that would be two adult passengers. Apart from the small electric motor and tires, some other outsourced parts include the braking system, electrical wiring, battery, belt drive, mirrors, sidestand and some bolts.

The highlight is, of course, its fully functioning status. A small 1 hp (750W) electric motor can power a 15 mph (24 km/h) ride for several minutes. Though this may not sound ground-breaking, it doesn’t necessarily need a bigger battery or a stronger engine to make a point as a showbike at a conference on printing, scanning and additive manufacturing. All that matters is that, after some 1,000 work hours and US$25,000, TE Connectivity has come up with a proper motorcycle indeed.

The main load-bearing parts were constructed with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology, the process of injecting layer upon layer of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic enriched with the heat resistant resin Ultem 9085. With this process, TE printed several parts with complex dynamic properties, such as the frame.

The wheel bearings sound tricky to fabricate, especially the rear one that was printed into a single piece with the hub and the drive sprocket. After some testing miles, both bearings reportedly held up against the load they must bear and the heat generated in the process. Equally difficult work has probably been involved in the fabrication of the wheel rims, which have to support real motorcycle tires with fully-inflated tubes.

Some metal parts like the headlight housing were printed in bronze through Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS), where a laser melts the desired shape out of several layers of metal powder.

Apparently this is the second prototype or, more precisely, a rebuild of the first after it suffered some damage during transportation. Thankfully creative minds saw this as an opportunity rather than a calamity, finding the chance to make some improvements on the original design.

Although it seems highly improbable for an electronic connector and sensor manufacturer to build any more motorcycles, TE Connectivity’s achievement highlights some promising prospects. Already several DMLS applications are available to the automotive and aerospace industries though companies like EOS. Stratasys, whose printers worked overtime for this project in TE’s labs, is currently in a partnership with Ducati advising the Italians on developing in-house FDM prototyping. By printing functional prototype engines, Ducati has been able to cut the development time of a new Desmosedici race engine for MotoGP from 28 to only eight months. Benefits from this process are expected to reach production models sooner or later.

TE Connectivity initially thought of printing a model of a motorcycle as a display of sculpting skills. This had already been done, several times over. The idea of a functioning bike was born in the process, probably out of the realization that it could actually be done. After all, the first printed car was unveiled and driven in public just last September.

3D printing technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, having progressed in just a few years from forming simple ornamental plastic parts to generating dynamic structures that function within moving mechanisms. In this sense, this motorcycle that looks like a child’s toy may well prove to be a landmark product.


by  | May 29, 2015

3D printed LEGO

Introducing ‘Uberblox’, the Modern Equivalent of Lego!


A 3D CNC router (computer controlled cutting machine) assembled from UberBlox, which is a new Lego-like metal construction and prototyping kit (Photo: UberBlox)

As cool and wonderful as Lego is, those plastic bricks can be tricky to handle if you want to step up from mere constructive play into serious custom-built prototyping. UberBlox hopes to fill that gap. It’s a metal construction set and prototyping system with a single-connector locking mechanism and a variety of control boxes for accommodating whatever computer connection or automation needs a project might have.

“It is difficult to make automated machines without years of developing skills and know-how,” UberBlox Systems founder Alex Pirseyedi tells Gizmag. “You need to know about technical design principles, not to mention the skills required to fabricate and assemble parts accurately to make such complicated machines work.”

UberBlox was born of the need for a solid, easy-to-use modular system that enables makers to build and test their robots, 3D printers, smart systems, and other computer-programmed automated machines. Pirseyedi notes that, while the traditional plastic building block sets “are great for quickly and easily making something,” they can’t handle the kind of rigidity and accuracy these automated machines require. UberBlox, he argues, bridges the gap by combining the lower barrier of entry of something like Lego with the higher technical needs of a typical maker.

“Even with today’s readily available aluminum T-slot mechanisms, you still need to cut, drill, mill, fit, re-try, re-cut, [and] deal with a huge number of choices for connecting parts,” explains Pirseyedi. “And [you have to] do all this accurately with tools and equipment that you may not necessarily have easy access to or know how to operate properly. UberBlox eliminates all that. You simply imagine a machine idea within the context of the system, and you start assembling parts, mostly with a single small tool. The supporting electro-mechanic, electronic, and software components then help you bring it to life.”

As for specific examples of what UberBlox might be helpful to produce or prototype, Pirseyedi has suggestions. The big one his team is pushing is 3D printing, with much of the marketing material revealed so far showing how the kit can become a functioning 3D printer. If you really just want a 3D printer, of course, you can buy one preassembled or packaged in a more tailored kit. But UberBlox is for the curious. It’s targeted at people who “have a desire to make their own so that they can learn engineering and technical skills as well as be able to tweak their system however they like,” says Pirseyedi.

Moreover, he adds, UberBlox allows for quick and easy testing of new design ideas for either entire 3D printing systems or portions of them, which is a popular pursuit of many in the maker community, without getting bogged down in the fabrication process. “After all, that is one of the reasons we’ve had such an explosion in interest in low-cost 3D printers in the past couple of years,” he says.

Besides 3D printers, the system could also “easily” be used to build loads of different types of robots, including manipulator arms, rovers, and humanoids, as well as laser cutting and engraving or CNC milling and routing machines.

It isn’t clear yet exactly what parts will be included in UberBlox kits, but they will include both basic blocks and reconfigurable parts, such as motors, moving components, electronics, and “Brain-Box” controllers for do-it-yourself boards, such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. It sounds like there’ll be multiple configuration options, but the UberBlox team is keeping the details quiet on this and pricing until it launches a Kickstarter campaign later this month.

The upcoming UberBlox Kickstarter will also reveal how the connection mechanism works, and if it surpasses its goal the team may be able to develop a 3D software tool designed specifically for drag-and-drop assembly of virtual UberBlox parts to aid in the design process. Regardless of any stretch goals, the team will release 3D models of UberBlox parts to backers “at some point in time” so that they can play around with them in their CAD or 3D modelling software of choice.

by  | February 15, 2015

Surgeries made possible by 3D printing!

A Summary of 7 Mind-Blowing Surgeries Made Possible by 3D Printing – Including Spinal Fusion Surgery and Titanium Heel Implants.


3D printing technology has enabled some truly life-changing surgeries in the past year

Though printing items like chocolate and pizza might be satisfying enough for some, 3D printing still holds a lot of unfulfilled potential. Talk abounds of disrupting manufacturing, changing the face of construction and even building metal components in space. While it is hard not to get a little bit excited by these potentially world-changing advances, there is one domain where 3D printing is already having a real-life impact. Its capacity to produce customized implants and medical devices tailored specifically to a patient’s anatomy has seen it open up all kinds of possibilities in the field of medicine, with the year 2014 having turned up one world-first surgery after another. Let’s cast our eye over some of the significant, life-changing procedures to emerge in the past year made possible by 3D printing technology.

Replacing the upper jaw

Earlier this year, the removal of an Indian man’s upper jaw due to cancer saw parts of both his nose and mouth left exposed. Things got worse for the 41-year-old after six weeks of radiotherapy, throughout which he developed radiation-induced fibrosis and lockjaw, severely impacting his ability to open his mouth.

Specialists used a CT scan to create a 3D reconstruction of the man’s face. Areplica of his mouth was then 3D-printed and used as a template to produce a wax model, which was then hardened and fitted with teeth. With the prosthesis adjusted to fit snugly in place, the man’s chewing, swallowing, speaking and other mouth movements are said to be considerably improved.

Forming a new skull

When a 22-year-old woman was suffering from a condition that caused her skull to thicken, specialists at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht were of the opinion that a partial implant would be necessary. These had been used before when sections of the skull were removed to relieve pressure on the brain, but the cement versions were not always a good fit.

The doctors worked with an Australian implant company to create a 3D model of the patient’s skull and printed an implant that would be an exact fit. While the increasing brain pressure threatened to impair the patient’s coordination and other brain functions, the 3D printed implant led her to a full recovery.

Spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion surgery is a complex procedure used to treat patients with conditions like disc degeneration and spinal instability. An important tool in this process is the spine cage, a medical device that serves as a replacement for damaged discs. By 3D printing a spine cage that had been tailored to the patient’s anatomy, a team of French surgeons was able to implant the device in a woman back in May with great results.

“The intersomatic cage, specifically printed by Medicrea for my patient, positioned itself automatically in the natural space between the vertebrae and molded ideally with the spine by joining intimately with the end plates, despite their relative asymmetry and irregularity,” said Dr. Vincent Fiere, the surgeon who performed the procedure at Hospital Jean Mermoz in Lyon, France.

Replacing cancerous vertebra

It wasn’t until a month after innocuously heading a soccer ball during a match that the entire body of a 12-year-old Chinese boy went numb. Spinal experts found that he had developed a malignant tumor on the second vertebra in his neck. In a five hour procedure conducted in August, surgeons removed the cancerous vertebra and replaced it with a 3D-printed implant.

The artificial vertebra was secured in place by titanium screws and the specialists said it was an improvement on existing methods. Typically, the patient’s head would need to supported by pins and cannot touch the bed while they are resting for around three months afterwards. But through 3D printing, the doctors could replicate the shape of the original vertebra, making it much stronger. Following the surgery, the patient was said to be in good physical condition and recovering as expected.

A titanium heel implant

Len Chandler, a 71-year-old man from Melbourne, Australia was faced with amputation below the knee after doctors diagnosed him with cancer in the heel bone. In exhausting all options, the surgeons had also been working with experts from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), exploring the possibility of producing a 3D-printed implant to save the patient’s lower leg.

Using schematics of the heel bone, a titanium implant was printed and inserted into Chandler’s foot in July. Three months later, he was said to be recovering well and able to place some weight on his heel again.

A 3D printed hip implant

The doctors of a 15-year-old Swedish girl suffering from a congenital disease resulting in skeletal deformations in the left hip were uncertain if she would walk again. But they then approached an implant manufacturing company called Mobelife to see what options might be available.

Mobelife used a tomography scan to create a detailed picture of the patient’s unique bone anatomy, ultimately printing an implant that would be secured with screws to the bone surrounding the defect. The operation was performed in September 2012 and eighteen months later she was walking entirely unaided.

Planning for complex heart surgery

When surgeons were approached by the parents of a 14-month-old boy born with four heart defects at Kosair Children’s Hospital in the US, they knew they had a task on their hands. But in planning for this surgery, they would be afforded the help of invaluable new-age medical tool.

Using CT scans of the baby’s heart, researchers at the University of Louisville were able to print a 3D model of the organ, measuring 1.5 times its actual size. This process took around 20 hours and cost US$600, but gave the doctors unprecedented opportunity to plan prior to a heart surgery, seeing them repair the heart’s defects in a single operation. Following his release from hospital, the boy was said to be in good health.

These are no doubt just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits 3D printing will bring to the field of medicine in the coming years, so it will be interesting to see how the technology develops.

by  | December 11, 2014