Will cyclists pedal bikes with airless tires in the future? BigRep just unveiled a new set of 3D-printed bike tires and took them out for a whirl in Berlin, Germany. The airless tires are made from PRO FLEX Filament – a new thermoplastic elastomer that introduces flexibility to 3D-printing. Designer and test cyclist Marco Mattia Cristofori described the ride as “very smooth”.

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PRO FLEX Filament can be used with the BigRep One industrial 3D-printer and it boasts “high temperature resistance, low temperature impact resistance” and durability “with excellent damping behavior and dynamic properties.”

Related: NASA’s new airless titanium tires are almost indestructible

Possible applications for the material include skateboard wheels, sporting shoe shells — and bicycle tires. The flexibility of PRO FLEX is what enables it to work for the airless tires. Maik Dobberack of BigRep told CNET the idea behind the tires is that users could print and customize the treads and internal patterns for varying needs: mountain biking, cycling on roads or handling various weather conditions.

BigRep's 3D-printed airless bicycle tire

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy the airless bicycle tires in a store at this point. Dobberack told CNET the tires were an “in-house industrial application design” not intended for large-scale production right now. “The main goal of the design was to inspire and explore the endless possibilities of large-scale 3D-printing,” Dobberack said.

The company has also played around with 3D-printed wheel rims, also designed by Cristofori, in “a meeting of advanced design and industry.” Cristofori said, “With 3D printing you can prototype organic forms… It allows you to envision more complex shapes, because you don’t really have any limits.”

Last year, Michelin unveiled concept tires that were also 3D-printed and airless; their Vision tire was printed with organic, recyclable materials and was completely biodegradable.

+ BigRep


Images and video courtesy of BigRep.com