In the sports world, cycling and 3D printing are a winning combination. One of the main challenges that technology can solve is the design of more optimized bicycle saddles, which must be really comfortable to guarantee better performance for the athlete but also ensure good health. Businesses today often struggle to come up with the right piece of equipment for every user, and that’s where additive manufacturing comes in. One of the biggest benefits we already know is the ability to create personalized pieces adapted to the morphology of each person. This is why companies such as AMT or BASF 3D Printing Solutions put their solutions at the service of bicycle manufacturers. This is the case that we are going to tell you about today, where the Czech company Posedla, dedicated to the creation of cycling equipment, has taken advantage of the advantages of 3D printing, its materials and the corresponding post-processing to be used by great athletes.
In order to create an optimized bicycle saddle, Posedla relied on the experience and know-how of companies involved in additive manufacturing. Based on the individual parameters of each rider, they managed to design and produce a completely personalized saddle, adapted to the rider’s anatomy, riding style, flexibility, etc. To do this, a test kit is sent to the user, from which the necessary information, such as seat width and support zones, is extracted. Next, a three-dimensional model of the saddle is created using algorithmic modeling software.
The process of making bicycle saddles
Once the 3D model of the saddle has been obtained, it is time to move on to the next phase: manufacturing. In this case, Posedla opted for the solutions of 3 major companies in the sector: HP, AMT and BASF 3D Printing Solutions. For the printing process, they wanted to find a method suitable for potentially scalable production, so they chose HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology. In terms of materials, they were looking for a flexible polymer that was both durable and tough. In response to these requirements, BASF 3D Printing Solutions, through its materials brand Forward AM, offered its flexible polymer Ultrasint® TPU01. The combination of HP’s technology with Forward AM’s material makes it possible to manufacture structures of different stiffnesses. This results in strong support at the seat bones, gradients with different parameters related to fore-aft movement in the saddle and a much softer saddle nose area.
Finally, another essential aspect was the post-processing of the final product. AMT, known for its advanced post-processing solutions, enables the certification of parts intended for use in the most demanding industries. In the case of the 3D printed saddles for Posedla, AMT PostPro’s Vapor Smoothing technology was the best choice. The steam smoothing method (as the name suggests) seals the porous surface of the saddle, strengthening its mechanical and structural properties, while giving it a final finish similar to injection molding. As a result, Forward AM’s Ultrasint® TPU01 material was able to pass post-processing skin contact and irritation testing. Additionally, end-use parts have been tested for mechanical damage and fatigue to meet and exceed ISO standards for bicycle saddles. Needless to say, they passed all the tests with flying colors and the saddles are now ready to ride.
Using 3D printing as a production tool has many advantages. One of them is that it allows the mass production of parts, which helps meet customer needs and, therefore, achieve their goals. The Posedla team comments: “ The level of customization we offer in our product would be impossible to achieve otherwise. Regarding the manufacturing process, they claim to have succeeded in reducing the production time from 10 to 3 weeks, with the manufacturing plant running at full speed, as well as considerably reducing the weight of the product, which is now less than 140 grams. Posedla is now a much more competitive company in the cycling equipment market thanks to the improvement and optimization of its saddles.
Both AMT and Forward AM will be displaying this end-use part on their booths at Formnext in Frankfurt. If you would like to learn more about this success story or the technology used to develop it, please visit the AMT website HERE.
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*Cover photo credits: Posedla