Meet Nera – the world’s first 3D-printed electric motorbike. The motorcycle – which looks like something you’d expect to see in a futuristic sci-fi movie – took German manufacturers BigRep three day’s to print and £2000 to make, and is entirely printed with the exception of the engine and electrical parts.
While the motorcycle is not yet available to buy, the first prototype unveiled in November caused a big stir in the electronics industry and offered many a hopeful insight into what the 3D-printed future of road could look like.
With this in mind, Soumac are taking a look at the technology and how it works:
Behind the project
The motorcycle was designed by Marco Mattia Cristofori – an applications specialist at BigRep – who wanted to demonstrate 3D printing’s capabilities for the automotive manufacturing industry, while also showing that a sleek design could still be achieved. Marco designed the NERA in collaboration with Maximilian Sedlak from NOWlab. Overall, the vehicle measures 190 x 90 x 55 cm and weighs 60 kg – which is comparatively light to today’s motorbikes, which weight around 180kg on average.
How it works
The motorcycle was built using a common 3D-printing process called fused filament fabrication. This involves feeding a thermoplastic material through a heated, moving printer extruder head; this then builds layer upon layer, eventually creating a 3D-built object.
Nera runs on a fully electric engine and also features embedded sensor technology, airless tyres, and flexible bumpers instead of suspension. It also comes with forkless steering, a lightweight rhomboid wheel rim and embedded LED lights with reflectors, which are also 3D-printed.
One of the major advantages of building these bikes using 3D-technology is that it only takes three days to do so. This could help manufacturers significantly reduce lead times in the future, advance supply chains and minimise reliance on supplier networks.
What’s more, 3D-printing could also save manufacturers money in the long run. While the initial cost of setting up a 3D-printing facility can be costly, it is much cheaper compared to labour and manufacturing costs in the long run – which will also save consumers money, should the Nera hit the mainstream market.
On the other hand, there is the argument that 3D-printing of motor vehicles could lead to job losses in the automotive industry, as machines would replace a lot of the work currently curried out by skilled manufacturers.
There are also limitations as to the types of materials that can be used with 3D-printing. Plastic is often the preferred material; however it can vary in strength capacity – making it difficult to know how durable a 3D-printed motorbike would actually be compared to a traditionally built vehicle.
Overall, the Nera is certainly an exciting development in 3D-print manufacturing; however, the technology has a long way to go before it hits the marketplace. 3D-printing is still an emerging technology which has considerable disadvantages, so for now, many manufacturers and product designers view it more as a process to complement traditional manufacturing, rather than a replacement.