Thursday, 8 March 2012

TREK Bicycles prototest using functional 3D Printed parts

Trek Bicycles uses Objet 3D printers and the ABS-like materials to rapidly prototype functional bike parts that can be tested on real bikes - in the field - just 2 hours after on-screen design.

The 3D printing process saves weeks from the conventional CNC milling process, and allows them to perfect their design parts before full production:
  • TREK were considering buying an SLA (Stereolithography) machine, an established rapid prototyping technology
  • The company knew that SLA could make great parts that customers would like, but wanted to explore all options
  • They were attracted by the ability of the Objet Connex 3D Printer to use multiple "digital" materials in the design process
  • Looking closer at SLA they found that there was an overhead in post-processing - 4 people to finalize parts - which they viewed as a 'hidden cost'
  • Objet Connex offered them a relatively simpler process, with less post-processing overhead
  • For TREK, traditional CNC machined parts came with a typical 28 day backlog - that's a big impact if the part is wrong and another machine-run is required
  • With Objet Connex the turnaround is 1 day - allowing for multiple iterations in the design process
  • It turned out that the ABS-like 3D printed parts are strong enough even for testing brackets under stress
  • TREK engineers were amazed at the first parts that came out of the Connex - a real part 'in your hand'


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