World-first 3D-printed airless bicycle tire hits the road

German 3D fused filament fabrication (FFF) printer and materials supplier BigRep has developed what it describes as the world’s first 3D-printed, full-scale airless bicycle tire. The tire leverages the flexible properties of the company’s new Pro FLEX filament.

BigRep product designer Marco Mattia Cristofori says: “We were able to replace ‘air’ as a necessity in the tire by customizing the pattern to be one of a three-layered honeycomb design. Based on the same principle, the design can be altered to fit the requirements of specific kinds of biking, such as mountain biking and road racing, or for different weather and speed conditions.” Perfecting the design is the trickiest part according to Cristofori. “Even small changes to the infill percentage or pattern can lead to different results in terms of weight and performance.”

3D printed airless tire never goes flat.

Printed on the BigRep ONE large-scale 3D printer, the tire prototype utilizes the full potential of BigRep’s latest filament: Pro FLEX. What reportedly separates the Pro FLEX from other 3D printing filaments is its unique flexible properties, coupled with high temperature resistance and durability. The rigidity and the internal pattern, known as the infill, can be controlled and customized to suit different weather conditions or terrain. The current tire prototype uses a three-layered honeycomb pattern adapted for urban use.

The main advantage of airless tires as opposed to your average run-of-the-mill tires is that they simply never go flat. Once a luxury, airless tires are now looking to become standard practice in the transportation sector. This is not BigRep’s first foray into the mobility world – BigRep has worked on a wide range of automotive, aerospace and transportation projects for such clients such as Aerobus, BMW, Deutsche Bahn, Etihad and Nissan. Following a recently announced high-temperature resistant wheel rim, BigRep’s portfolio of use cases continues to expand. It is also possible to print a fully-functioning bicycle frame on the BigRep ONE – as engineers of Aalborg University demonstrated in a recent project.

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