Creating more optimized bike saddles with Industry 4.0 technologies

In the sports world, cycling and 3D printing have proven time and time again to be a winning pair. This is especially the case in areas where technology can play a key role in improving performance. An example of this is the design of bicycle saddles, which must be optimized for the comfort, health and performance of the athlete. However, companies today often struggle to develop the right equipment for each user, and this is where additive manufacturing comes in. As you may know, one of the main advantages of the use of AM is the possibility of creating personalized pieces adapted to the morphology of each one. For this reason, companies like AMT or BASF 3D Printing Solutions have put their solutions at the service of bicycle manufacturers. This was the case of the Czech company Posedla which is dedicated to the creation of cycling equipment. It took advantage of the advantages of 3D printing, its materials and the corresponding post-processing for use by great athletes.

With the aim of creating optimized bicycle saddles, Posedla relied on the experience and expertise of companies dedicated to additive manufacturing. Using each rider’s individual characteristics, they were able to design and produce a completely custom saddle that is tailored to the rider’s anatomy, as well as riding shape, flexibility and more. To do this, a test kit was sent to the user from which the necessary information, such as the width of the seat bones and the impression of the sitting area, was taken. Later, a three-dimensional model of the saddle is created using algorithmic modeling software. This is a clear example of the progress that can be seen in product personalization, demonstrating that the consumer goods industry is undergoing substantial change.

Credits: Posedla

Make saddles

After getting the 3D model of the saddle, it’s time to start manufacturing. In this case, Posedla opted for the solutions of three leading companies in the sector: HP, AMT and BASF 3D Printing Solutions. For the printing process, they wanted to find a suitable method in potentially scalable production, which is why HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology was chosen. In terms of materials, they were looking for a flexible polymer that was both durable and UV resistant. Considering these requirements, BASF 3D Printing Solutions, through its material brand Forward AM, offered its flexible polymer Ultrasint® TPU01. The combination of HP technology with the material of Forward AM allows the creation of structures with different rigidities. This provides strong support in the seat bone area, gradients with different settings related to the fore-aft movement of the saddle, and a much softer saddle nose area.

Finally, another fundamental 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 passed skin contact and irritation tests after being post-treated with Vapor Smoothing. Additionally, end-use parts have been tested for mechanical damage and fatigue to meet or even exceed ISO standards for bicycle saddles. Needless to say, they passed all the tests with flying colors and the saddles are now ready to go.

AMT’s Vapor Smoothing technology was used for post-processing the parts. (Credits: Posedla)

Using 3D printing as a production tool has many advantages. One of them is that it allows the mass production of parts, helping to meet customer needs and, therefore, achieve the set objectives. The Posedla team noted that without it, “The level of personalization that we offer in our product would otherwise be impossible to achieve.” As for the manufacturing process, they say they managed to reduce the production time from 10 weeks to 3 weeks, with the manufacturing plant at full capacity. Additionally, there has been a significant reduction in the weight of the product, which now stands at less than 140 grams. Among other things, Posedla is now a much more competitive company in the bicycle equipment market thanks to the improvement and optimization of its saddles.

AMT and Forward AM will be exhibiting this end-use part at their physical booths at Formnext in Frankfurt. If you would like to learn more about this achievement or the technology used to develop it, please visit the AMT website HERE.

Credits: Posedla

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*Cover photo credits: Posedla

Margie D. Carlisle