BigRep unveiled the NERA E-Motorcycle on November 13, 2018 at Formnext and it went viral!
Now let’s take a deeper look at how the world’s first fully 3D-printed electric motorcycle came to be.
Only 12 weeks from sketch to final product at the BigRep headquarters, NERA took its maiden voyage in Berlin.
NOWLAB Co-Founder & Managing Director Daniel Büning started with an idea: create a functional prototype that revolutionizes mobility.
Let´s look at the complexity of the process:
With Marco Mattia Cristofori in the design lead, we engineered NERA e-Bike from the ground up, disrupting traditional design, engineering and production in every aspect. The result is a 100-percent, customizable, functional prototype, designed and produced with more time- and cost- efficiency than previously imaginable.
In building NERA, our designers and engineers didn’t simply adapt existing motorcycle designs; instead they envisioned a bike designed for large-format FFF technology, setting a benchmark for truly creative design and breaking the limits of traditional mindsets.
In the following examples, we show how additive manufacturing technologies disrupt existing possibilities:
- Ideation: First, we worked on the basic bike aesthetics. From the basic mechanical functionality to a unique design language, we started sketching in five design iterations.
3D printing changes the perception of design language and allows total freedom in terms of design: bionic, organic, edgy – any designs are only one thought from reality.
- FFF-based Design: We ideate especially for the FFF technology with its unique possibilities: design and functionalities are exclusively FFF-based and don`t work with any other production technology. Prototyping for standard manufacturing methods has extremely limited design possibilities when it comes to mechanical functions, as well as to the design language of objects.
- Design process: First, we arrange the functionally relevant core parts, then design the outer shell translating the chosen design language into the functional parts. We decided to pursue a low polygon/ stealth design language, which allowed us to avoid top layers that can be a weakness of FFF printing.
- Embedded Electronics: Battery, motor, cable and control systems are not printed. The motor is electric since traditional combustion engines cannot be embedded in polymer objects. The electronics can be adjusted individually and are integrated as a modular system that allows individual settings.
- Materials: NERA is printed with BigRep Pro Flex, BigRep ProHT, BigRep PLA, and BigRep PETG materials. While we use ProHT for rigid parts, PLA for color details and PETG for the light reflectors, Pro Flex allows us to embed functionalities in a unique way. Tires, bumper, seat and handles are printed with the flexible material and fulfill functions that usually require complex mechanical constructions such as hydraulic, shock absorbing suspension systems.
The strength and elasticity of the material allowed us to come up with completely new design approaches that replace the traditional mechanical components. A horizontally embedded Pro Flex suspensor with honeycomb structure, for example, replaces a traditional hydraulic system integrated in metal fork steering systems for motorcycles.
- Forkless steering: Instead of a fork steering, NERA has eight pivot points, clamping vertically instead of assembling the fork to rotate the wheel on a horizontal axis.
- Print parameters: Our design team used 12 percent infill almost everywhere. This was determined by testing several small portions and then determining that 12 percent is the perfect fit for structural stability.
In total, the design features include 15 fully printed parts:
- Fully-functional, full-scale 3D printed prototype
- All parts printed with BigRep printers (except electronics), including body, rims, tires, steering, seat, headlight and shocks
- Flexible parametric bumper replaces suspension as a shock absorber
- Custom-fitted seat and chest rest printed with flexible thermoplastic
- Airless tires with customized tread printed with flexible thermoplastic
- Front tire has an arch structure for a softer, smoother ride
- Back tire has a stronger hexagonal structure for load-bearing parts
More than just an exercise in what can be achieved with 3D printing – and specifically FFF printing with BigRep technology – the NERA shows that the low cost and fast results of additive manufacturing allow designers to immediately test prototypes and rapidly produce iterations of experimental engineering. The NERA also illustrates the massive benefits that 3D printing offers to produce functional parts, particularly for unique- to small-series production, by reducing lead times and costs, optimizing supply chains and limiting dependency on supplier networks.
Daniel Büning, Co-Founder and Managing Director of NOWLAB, explains, “Our NERA E-Motorcycle is the perfect example of the disruptive capabilities of additive manufacturing in the mobility sector. The bike is the result of a radical new approach to product development, seamlessly spanning digital simulation to custom manufacturing. Therefore, NERA combines several innovations developed by NOWLAB such as the airless tire, functional integration, and embedded sensor technology. We push the limits of engineering creativity to reshape additive manufacturing technology as we know it.”