Electric motorbike out of the printer

May 23, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Motorbikes with electric propulsion are now nothing special anymore – but this here is really an exception: The Light Rider from Airbus subsidiary APWorks combines electric drive with bionic design and additive manufacturing. The entire prototype has a weight of just 35 kilograms, 30 percent less than conventional-built motorbikes.

The two-wheeler is equipped with an electric motor of 6 kW which accelerates the bike within a few seconds to its maximum speed of 80kmph (about 50 mph). The vehicle is composed of billions of particles of a special aluminum alloy which then have been welded by a laser beam in a 3D printing process. The low weight – the frame weighs only 6 kilograms -  is owed to the latest production and design technologies: The structure has been optimized for weight and the maximum ruggedness. It is no coincidence that the frame are reminiscent of an exoskeleton because the algorithms used are based on bionic principles in which natural growth processes determine which load paths have to be carried out stronger and which ones less strong.

 

The result resembles only remotely a motorbike as we know it. “Such a complex hollow structure is not feasible with conventional manufacturing processes such as welding and milling” said Joachim Zettler, general manager of Airbus APWorks GmbH (Ottobrunn, Germany). Thanks to the progress in the area of additive manufacturing the sophisticated bionic designs of the Light Rider could be carried out unchanged.

 

The frame has been made of thousands of thin layers, each 60 microns thick. This production process did not impose any limits to the design. For instance, it was possible to pass cables through the cavities and all fixation points could have been integrated into the frame. For the production, the company used a corrosion-resistive metal alloy called Scalmalloy, an in-house development of APWorks. Though extremely lightweight, the alloy has almost the same specific strength as titanium. In addition, the material has a particular high ductility which means that it deforms before it actually breaks – a property that makes this material interesting for numerous robotics, automotive and aerospace applications. The Light rider is not just a prototype: A limited edition can already be ordered from the company.