This funky bike is making news today not just for its design but for how it is made. UK engineers printed the bike using a powder composed of nylon and metal which results in a frame that has the strength of steel while also being 65% lighter than aluminum. The Air Bike is a demonstration of a technology called additive layer manufacturing which was able to create the fully working bike with only six parts. The goal is to show how the technology can revolutionize product design from airplanes to satellites to more down to earth items like bikes.
EADS the European Aerospace and Defense Group, the parent company of Airbus, is developing the technology to make strong lightweight and robust materials for aeronautical equipment. They decided to create the bike to show how the technology is not just about hidden parts, but how it can revolutionize the production of many common things.
As the term implies, additive layer manufacturing is about creating a product by joining a material together rather than by subtracting from a material such as machining steel. A fine powder of nylon and metal is laid out and melted with a laser. Like a 3-d printer consecutive layers are added and fused to create a bond that rivals the strength of steel.
The process also uses one tenth of the material which makes it a very green substitute. No word on if the material can be reused, so its cradle to cradle potential is still up in the air, so to speak. Dont expect to see the Air Bike on the street any time soon as it is just a demonstration of the technology but the potential is enormous.