Creating the world’s first 3D printed recycled plastic composite bicycle and e-bike.
Due to the pandemic and subsequent social distancing guidelines, the UK population’s attitude to transportation has changed. The bicycle and e-bike have become a new model of healthy transport for many. Halfords, The UK’s largest bicycle retailer, recorded double their average sales in May, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, cycling levels have increased by 70% since March (28/06/20).
New limits on public transport, including government advice to avoid public transport, has accelerated the demand for bicycles. The need for bikes has outstripped orders with many retail outlets and brands (including Cooper Bikes https://cooperbikes.com ) having limited or no stock. The UK industry has been particularly poor to react to increased demand due to a reliance on bicycles and bicycle parts, including frames, made in Asia, especially China, Bangladesh, Philippines and Taiwan.
Production lead times have increased, and the UK industry has little power in changing this. Only a few manufacturers build bicycle frames in significant numbers in the UK (Brompton, Pashley) but the process is still labour intensive, slow and hard to scale.
Using the latest large-format 3D printing, we have been investigating the possibility of printing a whole bicycle frame in the UK. While 3D printing is now standard in the bicycle industry, this has primarily been for small scale parts, usually at a high cost on high-end bicycles. Complete e-bikes and bicycle frames have previously been 3D printed, but these too are at a high price and not yet mass market.
We have already begun to employ novel material recycling methods to incorporate recycled carbon into a composite for 3D printing our bicycle. A founding member of the team has previously been responsible for creating the world’s first 3D printed recycled surfboard https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/181048/imperial-researcher-develops-recyclable-surfboard-world/. Further investment is now needed to accelerate research and development of both the large scale custom 3D printer and product designs and testing.