Sometimes awards leave me somewhat unimpressed, but here’s an example of an award – actually more than one – being given for something that is innovative and well deserved, at least in my opinion. (And, everybody has a right to my opinion!)
3D printing has been with us for several years now, but this, to my knowledge is the first time that it has been used to build a 3D special MTB frame, particularly using eco-compatible materials, using fused deposition modelling (“FDM”) 3D printing. This particular 3D printing process consists in a fused filament deposition by a special CNC machine, able to make very complex objects without shape limits that are typical of the standard moulding process.
A feasibility analysis was conducted to determine the most correct 3D printing processes and material. The result is the use of FDM technology combined with biodegradable, recycled and recyclable PLA biopolymers derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugarcane. There is another important full product life cycle energy consideration here: the primary energy requirement to produce these PLA biopolymers is estimated by NatureWorksllc.com to be just 45 MJ per kg which is around 40-50% of the energy requirement to product other plastics.
This work has its origins in the engineering and design skills of Italian engineer Marco Genevese and his company, founded in 2011, called Eurocompositi based in Mellaredo di Pianiga near Venice. They have used special parametric 3D modeling software and generative algorithms to provide a prototyping service. They are really into cutting edge 3D FDM printing technology and – as can be seen by their use of PLA biopolymers which are available in a range of 20 different colours and are selected according to customer requirement – the most efficient and ecological materials. They have really had to deploy their engineering and design skills to get these materials to provide the stiffness and durability required in a bike frame, especially when their prototype is naturally going to be compared with the most advanced materials.
The jury at the Eurobike exhibition awarded the “Aenimal bhulk” a gold award for its degree of innovation and design, saying it “could start a new trend. It’s the first mountain bike where a 3D printer is used to make the frame from biodegradable, recyclable and recycled materials. We’re presenting this innovation with an award because its technology is so visionary that it could revolutionise the way bikes are customised and manufactured.”
I mentioned early on in this article that there has been more than one award: at the September Cosmobike exhibition in Verona, Aenimal Bhulk got the Cosmobike Green Tech Award for 2015.
It looks like this small but ambitious and gifted company is going places. They are now looking for partnerships or an investor to industrialise their production processes.
Strange thought for the future: when I put out my waste for recycling and composting, will I be able to compost my bike at the end of its life?
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