GSD Global, an engineering and design consultancy specializing in premium e-bikes, has teamed up with Swedish engineering company Sandvik to improve e-bike production using titanium additive manufacturing. Together, the companies have developed a 3D printed motor node, which is both significantly lighter and cheaper to produce compared to the traditionally manufactured part.
Today, the e-bike market is relatively niche, despite the transportation mode’s growing popularity. One of the roadblocks to ramping up e-bike production is apparently associated with the production of certain critical components, such as the motor nodes for premium e-bikes. The titanium components, which hold the electric motor onto the bike frame, are notoriously difficult and costly to manufacture using CNC machining.
To overcome this challenge, GSD Global, which works with various bicycle OEMs, reached out to Sandvik to explore the possibility of using additive manufacturing to produce the premium e-bike part. It turns out, AM was the perfect solution for manufacturing the titanium part, enabling the partners to reduce the cost of the part by up to 75%. The printed component, made of Osprey Ti6Al4V powder, is also of a higher quality and is more durable than the original.
“Handmade bikes are the type of product that goes straight to your heart – they are pieces of art to begin with,” said Zach Krapfl, head of GSD Global and an electrical vehicle engineer. “So, if we can provide these high-end bicycle makers with a material that can make their bikes last 10-20 years – that’s a game-changer to them.”
Titanium offers a number of advantages compared to more commonplace metal materials. For one, it is extremely fatigue resistant. For another, it has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio. For an application such as e-bike production, which benefits from weight savings and part durability, titanium seems like the perfect fit.
By switching to metal additive manufacturing for the production of titanium parts, Krapfl believes that premium e-bike manufacturers will be able to improve their production in many ways: not just financially, but also ecologically. He said: “This is when we realized that we were on to something that wouldn’t just prove to be financially feasible – but enable substantial improvement in terms of quality and energy efficiency as well.”
The idea going forward is that GSD Global and Sandvik will provide e-bike OEMs with titanium motor nodes, which could help pave the way for an e-bike market that is more accessible and sustainable. Because the motor nodes were some of the hardest parts to manufacture, Krapfl is hopeful that additive manufacturing can also be successfully implemented to improve other e-bike parts.
“We’re so excited to share this with lots of brands, and to start adding more and more additive parts in the future,” he added. “And I can’t wait to see all of the new Osprey metal powders from Sandvik Additive Manufacturing in the future – especially from their new titanium powder plant in Sweden.”
Sandvik hosted a grand opening for its new titanium powder plant this past October. The event not only showcased the state-of-the-art facility’s capabilities, but also highlighted a special project undertaken by the Swedish company: a smash-proof 3D printed titanium guitar.