The Bike Project aims to design the world’s first DIY 3D printed bicycle and is the brainchild of Stef de Groot and Paul De Medeiros. Here Paul explains the thought behind the project and how he has gone about the design process.
The idea of the OBI (Open Bicycle) is to create a bike that you can customise, manufacture and build yourself – at home! It is unique because parts of it are made with a desktop 3D printer and it will also be the first truly modular bicycle. This means that every part can easily be removed and replaced, without the need of any (expensive!) specialised tools or skills. We believe in the power of open source design. Once we have created the first working bicycle, all our designs will be made available for anyone to improve, change or inspire.
Why a bike?
We wanted to design a 3D printed bicycle because we felt that the options for consumer 3D printing are still very limited. We noticed that consumers, after having access to 3D printers for a couple of weeks and printing their fill of bottle openers and action figures, become disillusioned with 3D printing. They often lose their enthusiasm because they see no real value of 3D printing for their everyday lives. With The Bike Project, we wanted to make a major push towards a future we believe in; where anyone with access to a 3D printer and internet, will be able to manufacture tools/products that they will use in their everyday lives, and that those around them can use in their everyday lives.
For us, bicycles are very much a part of our daily lives. I love cycling and since I bought my road bike 4 years ago I have loved improving it by replacing parts and have been known to take apart some of my bicycles just to figure out how they work, so it was a natural choice to want to develop a bike.
I have great respect for the modern bicycle. It is an incredibly efficient design that has been optimised over the ages. We also do not believe our 3D printed bike will ever replace current bicycles, but rather be an extra option and a new perspective on what a bicycle can be.
What did you use to design the prototype?
Both Stef and I are industrial students and when we started the project we were using Solidworks, as this is what we were most familiar with. The funny thing is that the main reason that we made the switch to Fusion 360 is completely different from the reason we decided to stick with it.
A couple of months ago we were thinking about the aesthetics of the bike and decided that we wanted to pursue organic shapes, as these are uniquely easy to produce with a 3D printer and we hoped to be able to minimise the amount of plastic used in the printed parts. As Solidworks is notoriously bad for organic shapes, we started looking for alternatives that would enable us to use t-splines and found Fusion 360.
However, we ended up steering away from the organic design which means we haven’t used t-splines at all. What has kept us in Fusion 360 is the ease of use (we learned how to use it in a few days, rather than weeks), the great tools for collaboration (no longer linking files after a transfer via USB stick), version control and cloud access to files. The workflow is incredibly streamlined in Fusion. There are also some great tools that make you wonder why you ever had to work differently, like the thread and web tools. Finally the integration with 3D printing (one button to export to Cura!!) just makes our workflow so much more streamlined – going back to Solidworks for university projects has simply become a pain.
We usually work from different locations, as it is a project we do in our spare time… Our CAD modelling is mostly done individually; when we are in the same room we usually get too distracted by discussing design decisions (materials etc.), the vision behind the project, or how we hope 3D printing will change the industry.
How has having cloud capabilities changed the way you work?
Our old workflow was as follows:
- Stef uses Solidworks on his laptop, when a design is done he places it in Dropbox.
- I use Solidworks either on a uni desktop or on bootcamp on my laptop, I save my designs on an external hard disk and occasionally upload files on dropbox (usually forgot to though)
- Whenever I wanted to access something in Stef’s files, I had no idea whether I had the latest version or not, so I ended up just calling him and asking him to look something up (e.g. measurements).
Now we have all our files in one Fusion 360 folder. We still divide the design up in parts, but we’re no longer afraid to open up each other’s files, snoop around to see each other’s progress or measure up the size of a part.
What does the future hold?
We completed a prototype of the frame back in July. We are now working on a second prototype, after which we expect to need one more iteration to reach a final, functional bicycle. We’re now working on improving the geometry of the bicycle, optimising the design of the frame (using less material, reducing printing time and making parts stronger/stiffer), adding a fully functional drivetrain and integrating a headset in a printed front fork.
Ideally we hope this project will inspire others to do great things with 3D printing!