Airbus’ APWorks launches 3D printed electric motorcycle

Dubbed Light Rider, the vehicle's structure consists of thousands of thin layers just 60 microns thick.

0 May 24, 2016

European aeronautics giant Airbus is pushing itself into new territory, namely the electric vehicle market. APWorks, a subsidiary of Airbus, announced that it has created a 3D printed motorcycle, made using its proprietary Scalmalloy material, weighing in at 35 kg.

APWorks, 3d printed Light RiderDubbed the Light Rider, the new APWorks design is lightweight. The company boasts its Light Rider is 30 per cent  lighter than conventionally manufactured e-motorcycles. The vehicle comes with a 6 kW electric motor powering it from zero to 80 km per hour in just seconds and a frame boasting a mere 6 kg.

The Light Rider has a truly unique look similar to that of an exoskeleton. APWorks used an algorithm to develop the Light Rider’s optimized structure to keep weight at a minimum while ensuring the motorcycle’s frame was strong enough to handle the weight loads and stresses of everyday driving scenarios. APWorks explains that this was an intentional designed modeled after bionic structures and natural growth processes and patterns.

“The complex and branched hollow structure couldn’t have been produced using conventional production technologies such as milling or welding,” said Joachim Zettler, CEO of Airbus APWorks GmbH. “Advances in additive layer manufacturing have allowed us to realize the bionic design we envisioned for the motorcycle without having to make any major changes. With these technologies, the limitations facing conventional manufacturing disappear,” he added.

The vehicle’s frame was produced using additive layer manufacturing (ALM), a system that melts millions of aluminum alloy particles together. The structure consists of thousands of thin layers just 60 microns thick.

Due to the advanced 3D printing capabilities, APWorks was able to design hollow frame parts instead of solid, which has allowed for integrated cables, pipes and screw-on points in the finalized motorcycle structure. This ability has resulted in a dramatic 30 per cent weight reduction over motorcycles produced using conventional manufacturing techniques.

“We further harnessed the benefits of metallic 3D printing by using our own proprietary material, Scalmalloy, for the construction of the frame,” said Zettler. Scalmalloy is a corrosion-resistant aluminum alloy that is virtually as strong as titanium. Specifically developed for ALM-based production, the material combines high strength with an extraordinary level of ductility, making it an especially interesting material to use for highly solicited parts in lightweight robotics, automotive and aerospace applications.

The company is offering a limited production run of just 50 Light Riders for the time being.

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