Silicon Valley startup peddles 3D-printed bike

Arevo has produced what it says is the world’s first carbon fiber bicycle with 3D-printed frame

From left:  Arevo Labs chief executive Jim Miller, CTO Wiener Mondesir, and chairman and co-founder Hemant Bheda  with the company’s 3D-printed carbon fibrecommuter bike

From left: Arevo Labs chief executive Jim Miller, CTO Wiener Mondesir, and chairman and co-founder Hemant Bheda with the company’s 3D-printed carbon fibrecommuter bike

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After a career that included helping Alphabet Inc’s Google build out data centers and speeding packages for Amazon. com to customers, Jim Miller is doing what many Silicon Valley executives do after stints at big companies: finding more time to ride his bike.

But this bike is a little different. Arevo, a startup with backing from the venture capital arm of the US Central Intelligence Agency and where Miller recently took the helm, has produced what it says is the world’s first carbon fiber bicycle with 3D-printed frame.

Arevo is using the bike to demonstrate its design software and printing technology, which it hopes to use to produce parts for bicycles, aircraft, space vehicles and other applications where designers prize the strength and lightness of so-called “composite” carbon fibre parts but are put off by the high-cost and labor-intensive process of making them.

Engineers Magda Zydzik and Chris Lee of Arevo Labs inspect a carbon fibre bicycle frame in the process of being 3D-printed in Santa Clara, California
Engineers Magda Zydzik and Chris Lee of Arevo Labs inspect a carbon fibre bicycle frame in the process of being 3D-printed in Santa Clara, California

Traditional carbon fibre bikes are expensive because workers lay individual layers of carbon fibre impregnated with resin around a mold of the frame by hand. The frame then gets baked in an oven to melt the resin and bind the carbon fibre sheets together.

Arevo’s technology uses a “deposition head” mounted on a robotic arm to print out the three-dimensional shape of the bicycle frame. The head lays down strands of carbon fibre and melts a thermoplastic material to bind the strands, all in one step.

The process involves almost no human labour, allowing Arevo to build bicycle frames for $300 (€254) in costs, even in pricey Silicon Valley.

“We’re right in line with what it costs to build a bicycle frame in Asia, ” Miller said. “Because the labor costs are so much lower, we can re-shore the manufacturing of composites.”

While Miller said Arevo is in talks with several bike manufacturers, the company eventually hopes to supply aerospace parts. Arevo’s printing head could run along rails to print larger parts and would avoid the need to build huge ovens to bake them in.

“We can print as big as you want - the fuselage of an aircraft, the wing of an aircraft,” Miller said. - Reuters

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