Like many other major automotive companies around the world, BMW is increasingly implementing 3D printing into its operations. The German manufacturer is using the technology to quickly develop advanced prototypes at various stages of the design process, as well as investing in 3D printing research and even using 3D printing for final-phase series production. The latest prototype developed with the technology is for a motorcycle, known as the S1000RR. The bike has a 3D printed chassis, as well as a 3D printed swingarm.
3D printing technology has been used for several years now by BMW Group, with the purchase of a HP Jet Fusion 3D printer back in 2016 being one of the first big steps on their additive manufacturing journey. Last year the company demonstrated its i8 Roadster and Coupe vehicles, which will be available for sale later this year. These cars feature 3D printed components in their final build, which is a first for the company. The soft-top mechanism of the car has 3D printed aluminium parts. The technology enabled these to be produced with advanced geometries, in order to reduce weight as well as to increase available interior space by improving the efficiency of the soft-top retracting mechanism.
Beloved British car manufacturer MINI, which has been owned by BMW Group since 2000, has also taken advantage of 3D printing technology. It will soon be launching the MINI Yours Customised project, which will allow car owners to personalize their vehicles with features like side scuttles and interior trims. These will be selected and modified with a simple digital design tool, before the designs are sent to be 3D printed at a MINI factory.
BMW Group’s latest 3D printing project, the S1000RR motorcycle prototype, was demonstrated at the BMW Group Digital Day, an event held in Mallorca, Spain. This event was intended to explore the ways that digital technologies are transforming the transportation sector, and it had a dedicated section for 3D printing technology.
A major benefit of additive manufacturing is the way that it frees up designers to experiment with new possibilities. The direct translation of digital models into physical structures, without the need for tooling, casting or machining processes, enables prototypes to be put together quickly and easily. This means that new geometries can be explored with minimal risk. Not only this, the technology also allows the fabrication of complex structures that would have been impossible with conventional processes, regardless of the time or cost involved.
This is something that is definitely apparent with the new S1000RR prototype bike. The chassis and swingarm have a fluid, skeletal look, a combination of futuristic and organic. The aesthetic appeal of the bike is something that 3D printing technology can enable, setting designers’ imaginations free and making their ideas a tangible reality. Information about what material the prototype was made from is limited, but it is probably an aluminum alloy of some kind, most likely 3D printed using the powder-bed fusion technique that HP’s additive manufacturing systems have pioneered. In line with their 3D printing innovations, BMW’s motorcycle designers have been involved with some other exciting work recently, winning a 2018 JEC Innovation Award for a swingarm made from carbon fiber.