Carbon and Specialized develop high-volume production bike saddle with 3D printing

Carbon has partnered with bicycle manufacturer Specialized to develop a new bike saddle with its Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) 3D printing technology.

Harnessing its L1 platform and EPU 41 material, the S-Works Powder Saddle with Mirror Technology, so called because it ‘reflects the rider’s anatomy’, takes advantage of lattice geometries to absorb impact, isolate vibrations, enhance the comfort for the rider, and reduce nerve pain too. The saddle has been designed for immediate, high-volume production and will be made available at widths of 143 mm and 155 mm next year.

It comes after a 13-month-long ‘file to road’ journey which saw around 70 design cycles completed to validate technical feasibility, design, and the production process. The first ten design cycles focused on material selection, with sample pucks printed in a number of Carbon’s EPU products, and the first saddle prototyped.

Through the following six months, a further 40 prints. Specialized, at this point, was testing the same design in two separate EPU materials. While it was thought having parts of the saddle that compressed easily would enhance comfort, testing showed uniform softness caused instability and affected negatively the control the rider had. The answer was to implement soft zones where the sit bones would be placed and gradually increase the stiffness throughout the rest of the saddle. The EPU 41 and its energy return characteristics were deemed the best suitable material for the job.

During the next five months, it was decided the L1 platform would best enable the scaling up of production and an excimer lamp would be used in the post-processing stage to cure the saddle and give a matte finish. The final month of the development process saw small adjustments to the design made to improve assembly onto the bike, with rider feedback being described as ‘overwhelmingly positive.’

Working with additive manufacturing, Specialized has been able to cut development time almost in half, with prototypes being turned around in a day as opposed to the fortnight it usually takes. It has given the partners ample time to test different material technologies and different designs and enabled them to come up with a bike saddle that they say gives the rider ‘the experience of having a suspension’ thanks to its 14,000 lattice struts.

In similar vein to the projects Carbon has ongoing with Riddell and Adidas, the company believes it has leveraged its additive manufacturing technology to enhance the performance of a product, and in turn, perhaps improve the well-being of the user.

“Our partnership with Specialized represents not only a breakthrough in bike saddle technology, but also our companies’ shared commitment to drive meaningful change by making products that improve human health and well-being,” commented Dr Joseph DeSimone, CEO and co-founder of Carbon.

“Specialized has a long history of improving the rider experience. We created our first Body Geometry saddle 25 years ago to address serious issues impacting cyclists. Together with Carbon, we are challenging the norms of the cycling world, from design to production time, to create technology that will allow riders to improve the performance, increase comfort, and reduce the change of injury,” added Garrett Gatter, Specialized Product Manager of Saddles. “With Mirror Technology, we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

Carbon has said the relationship with Specialized is not exclusive and it is open to partnering with other bike companies to work on their saddles, while there is also potential to extend the partnership with Specialized beyond its S-Works product line.

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