Airbus, the airplane company, has made what it calls the world’s first 3-D printed motorcycle, and it looks like the perfect city get-around—as long as you have $57,000 to spend. For that money, though, you not only get an ultra-light, speedy electric motorcycle. You get an ultra-light, speedy electric motorcycle called the Light Rider.
Light Rider comes out of Airbus’s German-based APWorks, and it is full of fancy German engineering. The bike weighs in at just 77 pounds, and the all-electric motor takes it from 0-30 mph in three seconds. The top speed is 50mph, and the battery lasts for 40 miles. In other words, it’s not going to beat a high-performance motorbike, but it will easily thrash your regular city moped or scooter.
The odd skeleton-like frame is 3-D printed from a custom material called Scalmalloy, which is an aluminum powder that—when printed—is almost as strong as titanium. The process uses lasers to selectively melt the powder into the finished form. "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," said Airbus APWorks CEO Joachim Zettler in a press release.
Because the frame is printed up one 60-micron layer at a time, the pieces can easily be made hollow. This is one of the reasons the bike is so light. The hollow channels also allow for cable and pipe routing, keeping these parts safe, and keeping the overall look of the Light Rider clean and sleek.
3-D printing doesn't make for cheap manufacture just yet, though. The Light Rider will come in a limited run of fifty units, retailing for $57,000 apiece. And if you buy one, you might find another good use for all those curly-wurly metal swoops: attaching a good bike lock or two, to secure your ultra-expensive, easy-to-lift motorbike whenever you leave it alone.