How 3D Printed Titanium Motor Nodes help make more sustainable e-bikes

Since we increasingly navigate through the era of e-bikes, we are also learning more about the different parts that can make their manufacturing challenging. The manufacturer’s challenge usually depends on the objectives he set himself. For Freicycle for instance, the goal was to get a very lightweight bike. For GSD Global, it is about manufacturing motor nodes.

The engineering and design consultancy company called for Sandvik’s support to investigate the possibility of 3D printing their nodes in titanium. One of goals of the company’s director based in Colorado, Zach Krapfl, is to combine bicycles, light electric vehicles, and appropriate renewable energy technologies as a catalyst for, in his own words, “earth lovin’ and a little personal happiness too”.

Handmade bikes are the type of product that goes straight to your heart – they are pieces of art to begin with. So, if we can provide these high-end bicycle makers with a material that can make their bikes last 10-20 years, and more energy-efficient – that’s a game-changer to them”, Krapfl points out.

Turning to Sandvik and opting for Titanium

Many OEMs know Titanium as a material leveraged in conventional manufacturing processes such as CNC. Therefore, when they have to choose another technology, they remain quite dubitative as they kept in mind the challenge they usually get with this manufacturing process.

Interestingly, using Titanium for Additive Manufacturing brings a great surprise: not only is the material easy to print but when processed with AM, it enables to produce a more durable, light and cost-effective part. In this case, GSD Global has been able to reduce up to 75% of costs using this manufacturing process. The notes were manufactured using powder-bed fusion and post-processed using Heat treatment and sand blasting.

We really wanted to add the material advantages of titanium to our high-end electrical propulsion systems for e-bikes,” Zach Krapfl says before continuing to explain a few of the advantages he identifies within the material properties of titanium – such as it being extremely fatigue resistant and able to provide lightness and longevity at that.

At the heart of this manufacture are Sandvik’s Osprey® metal powders. Two years ago, when Sandvik purchased Renishaw AM systems, the company aimed at improving its material development and process parameters for a range of its powders including these superalloys. Combining this equipment with its state-of-the-art titanium atomiser and powder processing facility, the materials producer successfully qualified these alloys for applications beyond the industrial area. The Osprey® metal powders are also a suitable candidate formedical applications such as 3D printed implants.

We’re so excited to share this with lots of brands, and to start adding more and more additive parts in the future,” Krapfl concludes.

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