World-first 3D Printed Airless Bicycle Tire

We’ve taken to the streets with our latest innovation, and are pleased to present the world’s first 3D-printed, full-scale airless bicycle tire. BigRep Product Designer Marco Mattia Cristofori shares with us how he used the flexible properties of the company’s TPU filament to bring the tire prototype to life. We even captured him taking the tire out for a test spin through the streets of Berlin. You can see it in motion in the video below.

"We were able to replace ‘air’ as a necessity in the tire by customizing the pattern to be one of a three-layered honeycomb design. Based on the same principle, the design can be altered to fit the requirements of specific kinds of biking, such as mountain biking and road racing, or for different weather and speed conditions. Perfecting the design is the trickiest part," says Cristofori. Even small changes to the infill percentage or pattern can lead to different results in terms of weight and performance.

Printed on the BigRep ONE large-scale 3D printer, the tire prototype utilizes the full potential of BigRep’s latest filament: TPU. What separates TPU from other 3D printing filaments is its unique flexible properties, coupled with high temperature resistance and durability. The rigidity and the internal pattern, known as the infill, can be controlled and customized to suit different weather conditions or terrain. The current tire prototype uses a three-layered honeycomb pattern adapted for urban use.

The main advantage of airless tires as opposed to your average run-of-the-mill tires is that they simply never go flat. Once a luxury, airless tires are now looking to become standard practice in the transportation world. This is not BigRep’s first foray into the mobility world – BigRep has worked on a wide range of automotive, aerospace and transportation projects for such clients such as Aerobus, BMW, Deutsche Bahn, Etihad and Nissan. Following a recent blog post in which we showcased the high-temperature resistant wheel rim, BigRep’s portfolio of use cases continues to expand. It is also possible to print a fully-functioning bicycle frame on the BigRep ONE – as engineers of Aalborg University demonstrated in a recent project.

Since the release of the airless bicycle tire video, the TPU-based tire has received coverage from around the globe, such as on online news sites Inhabitat and CNET. With more projects in the works, we’re delving right into prototyping for the mobility, automotive, aerospace and other industries, so stay tuned for more news in the coming weeks.

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