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May 13, 2018

Ride with confidence on a 3D-printed bicycle tire that will never go flat

by John_A

For cyclists, there are few things worse than getting a puncture halfway through a ride. OK, getting hit by a truck would obviously be a lot more problematic, but as far as injury-free scenarios go, a sudden puncture is surely one of the most deflating experiences a cyclist can have (apologies, couldn’t resist it).

Raising the hopes of keen cyclists everywhere, Berlin-based BigRep recently put one of its industrial 3D printers to work to create a bicycle tire that lets you dump the pump.

Claiming to have created the world’s first 3D-printed airless bicycle tire, BigRep’s Maik Dobberack told Cnet the design uses a custom-made thermoplastic elastomer capable of incorporating flexibility into 3D-printed objects. Looking at its performance in the video (above), the tire is certainly very springy while at the same time offering extreme-temperature resistance and durability.

Dobberack said his company’s 3D printer could conceivably print different tires according to the kind of ride you wanted to embark on. For example, you could have various pairs for different weather conditions, another for rough terrain, and a set for riding on regular roads.

BigRep

Test cyclist Marco Mattia Cristofori took BigRep’s tires out for a spin in the German capital and afterwards described the ride as “very smooth,” which is precisely what you want when you’re out on your bike.

But if you’re already thinking, “Just tell me how I can get my hands on these groovy tires,” then you’re going to be disappointed. BigRep said the main aim of the project is to highlight the myriad possibilities that can be had with large-scale 3D printing, and for now at least, the tire remains a concept design.

There is some cause for hope, though. Bridgestone — a company that knows a thing or two about tires — has been working on a similar design for the last seven years. It may not be 3D-printed, but like BigRep’s tire, it’s airless and so never needs pumping up.

Bridgestone unveiled the latest design of its funky-looking tire in 2017, and said that if trials proceed smoothly, they could be transporting you about your neighborhood as early as next year. We’ll keep you posted.

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