Alta Motors is a leading electric motorcycle manufacturer. It puts its products on the line by going head to head with conventional motorcycles in competitive events. Earlier this year, Josh Hill, a former professional motorcycle racer, finished 4th in theRed Bull Straight Rhythm race while riding an Alta Motors Redshift electric motorcycle. “Announcers were dismissive of electric at the beginning of the event, but by the end, they took us as a serious competitor,” said Fenigsetin. “That was a career-defining moment for me,” say Alta co-founder Marc Fenigsetin.
The world of electric motorcycles is changing rapidly and it takes a nimble company to stay ahead of the competition. That means accelerating development cycles at a time when “new products, new segments, pop up constantly,” according to Fenigsetin. Alta has its own in house rapid prototyping lab that uses 3D printing to create new parts quickly so they can be evaluated for production. But it wanted to use 3D printing for production parts as well, so it reached out to Ohio-based 3D printing bureau The Technology House. TTH in turn put them in touch with Carbon, a California company in Alta’s own backyard, so to speak.
Carbon is revolutionizing 3D printing with its proprietary CLIP technology. CLIP stands for Continuous Liquid Interface Production Technology. Carbon says its process can produce finished parts 100 times faster than is possible with conventional additive printing methods. That’s the kind of speed Alta was looking for.
Once it learned about Carbon’s CLIP 3D printing process, Alta realized the technology could improve its electric motorcycles. Alta now uses a number of CLIP 3D printed parts such as a charger housing and a diagnostic tool enclosure. “We’re able to iterate with TTH over the Internet,” said Nick Herron, a mechanical design engineer at Alta Motors. “We send them CAD files, get parts, and iterate on them quickly. When we get parts from TTH, we do fit and mechanical tests; this is the first level of validation. Shock and vibration, ingress protection; this is a second level of validation.”
Not only does CLIP turn out parts incredibly fast, it is the first additive printing technology that can be used with high quality resins like rigid polyurethane (RPU) for the diagnostics and charger housings, and elastomeric polyurethane (EPU) for wire seals and grommets. “The material properties are a lot closer to manufactured parts, which gives us more confidence as we go into production,” Herron explained. “The parts aren’t brittle so we can do inserts or thread form without stripping or shattering the parts. We can seal grooves and keep out water, conduct pressure and spray testing, and ingress testing. With CLIP we have a lot more confidence when we go into production.”
Alta says the CLIP technology allows it to fabricate components that can’t be tooled, as well as one-piece 3D printable parts that incorporate different features and components. The company is now experimenting with designs that reduce the number of parts by making one part that can do the job of six, streamlining design to improve usability for its customers.
Alta has a very optimistic view of the electric motorcycle market. “There are 300 million motorbikes and lightweight vehicles on this planet,” Fenigsetin says. “At some point in the next 20 years, they’re all going to transition to electric.”
Source and photo credit: 3ders.org