AP Works is a division of Airbus. Last week, it unveiled the Light Rider, an all electric motorcycle that uses a 3D printed aluminum frame. The finished bike weighs a feather light 77 pounds. The frame is one third lighter than a normal e-bike. According CEO Joachim Zettler, conventional production techniques such as milling or welding could not be use to build such a complex structure of branched, hollow tubes.
Actually, saying the frame is aluminum is a bit misleading. APWorks calls the material it uses “Scalmalloy,” a custom aluminum alloy powder “with almost the specific strength of titanium.” When used in a 3D printer, it is capable of making structures that are incredibly strong but super light in weight by fusing thin layers of material together.
The Light Rider is no TT Zero racer or Pikes Peak contender. It has a top speed of only 50 mph and accelerates to 30 miles per hour in just a touch more than 3 seconds. The battery can be easily removed for recharging or swapped out when depleted. It has a range of 35 miles. The light weight means it could actually be carried on a normal bicycle rack or taken upstairs in an elevator without much exertion.
Price will be an issue for most people, though. APWorks will make only 50 of the Light Rider machines and is selling them for $56,000 a copy. That’s a fairly expensive solution to the “last mile” conundrum. But just as prices of personal computers and LED televisions plummeted after they went into mass production, the Light Rider is merely a way point on the journey to low cost all electric transportation.
Right now, these e-bikes are mostly an advertisement for APWorks and its 3D printing technology. It won’t be long before these sorts of innovations begin trickling down to mainstream manufacturing.
Source: The Verge Photo credit: AP Works