New 3D-Printed Airless Bicycle Tire

Berlin-based 3D printing manufacturer BigRep says it printed the “world’s first” airless bicycle tire using its Pro FLEX material, a TPU-based filament.

A new 3D-printed airless bicycle tire promises to make flat tires a thing of the past. Berlin-based 3D printing manufacturer BigRep says it printed the “world’s first” airless bicycle tire using its Pro FLEX material, a TPU-based filament.

BigRep says it successfully tested functionality on the streets of the German capital. The airless tire was a successful prototype to demonstrate the ease and speed at which flexible spare parts can be 3D printed. BigRep believes this world-first application showcases the potential of 3D printing to develop new complex geometries that cannot be achieved using traditional production methods.

Marco Mattia Cristofori, BigRep product designer says the company replaced the ‘air’ in the tire by customizing the build pattern to be a three-layered honeycomb structure. Requiring no post-processing or gluing work, it was printed to scale as a large 1:1 object on the BigRep ONE 3D printer, which has a build volume of one cubic meter. Designed to match the dimensions of Cristofori’s own bicycle wheel, the Pro FLEX-printed tire has high-strength properties to withstand the conditions of city cycling.

Printing thermoplastic elastomers is a challenge in the FFF additive manufacturing industry, however, BigRep engineered Pro FLEX following intensive testing to ensure ease of use. Strong print bed adhesion from this high-performance filament allows BigRep and its Pro FLEX customers to 3D print large flexible parts without detachment issues.

“We have expanded our technical portfolio with a high-impact, high-temperature-resistant material in Pro FLEX, which has higher interlayer-bonding than we have ever seen before, and robust chemical resistance for a range of technical applications,” says Stephan Beyer, Big Rep CEO. “There is a clear use case for flexible parts that can be customized and printed on a needs basis, across med-tech, aerospace, automotive and other industries.”

This is not BigRep’s first venture into the transportation world. The company has worked on automotive, aerospace and other transportation projects for such clients such as Aerobus, BMW, Deutsche Bahn, Etihad and Nissan.