3D printing technology empowers manufacturing enterprises with the potential to optimize production processes and enhance efficiency as a more flexible manufacturing method. In the field of bicycle manufacturing, 3D printing technology provides manufacturers and cyclists with a flexible production approach and personalized customization solutions that were challenging to achieve with traditional manufacturing. It is driving the entire bicycle industry towards new heights of development.
A high-end bicycle manufacturing company in Asia, which for privacy reasons will be referred to only as “GT” throughout this case study, successfully overcame production challenges and achieved improvements in production efficiency and cost optimization through 3D printing technology. Established in the late 20th century, GT has been in development for over 20 years and has been expanding its company size and sales annually. In 2019, after comprehensive comparisons in technology, cost, quality, and service, GT chose to acquire two Raise3D Pro2 and one Raise3D Pro3, totaling three devices. Since then, these three printers have been busy in daily production, helping to save 50% of prototype production time and 100% of labor hours.
Challenges in the Bicycle Manufacturing Industry Posed by Traditional Methods
In the process of bicycle manufacturing, the fabrication of frames presents a formidable challenge due to intricate shapes that have to be made. Prior to adopting 3D printing technology, GT experimented with various methods for prototyping such as cutting polystyrene foam, using clay and other approaches, but the outcomes were consistently unsatisfactory. Additionally, the prototyping phase was very long, taking several weeks.
On the other hand, while CNC fixtures exhibit robustness and a clean surface, these features are not essential for GT from a practical or cost-effective perspective. The primary function of these parts is simply to provide a fixture during the manufacturing process. Therefore, optimizing the money invested in fixture production while meeting basic operational requirements is a pressing concern for GT.
How Raise3D Is Helping Solve GT’s Production Challenges with Rapid Prototyping and In-House Printed Fixtures
In the past, it typically took several weeks for GT to produce a prototype component. However, with the adoption of 3D printing technology, the entire production process now only takes a few days. The flexibility of 3D printing technology allows engineers to quickly design and optimize prototype components. When adjustments are needed, engineers can directly modify the digital model. After slicing through the Raise3D slicing software, the prototype component can be remade efficiently. In terms of the specific time and labor cost savings, Raise3D has helped reduce the prototype delivery cycle by 50% and cut labor hours by 100%, significantly enhancing production and cost efficiency.
At the same time, after discovering the durability of Raise3D Premium PLA material, GT abandoned traditional CNC fixtures in favor of Raise3D printed parts. 3D-printed fixtures with PLA material have since been sufficient to meet production needs while significantly reducing costs.
GT’s engineer noted that, as of now, numerous production components have been fabricated using Raise3D printers and the Raise3D printers have become an important part of the production process.
Supported by Raise3D’s Reliability, Cost-Effectiveness, and Customer Service
GT states that the ROI (Return on Investment) and after-sales service were the key considerations when choosing a printer. They have found that the cost-effectiveness and wide selection of Raise3D printing filaments meets their production needs, while outstanding after-sales service provides them with reliable support. Throughout the entire Raise3D printing experience, the stable performance and support have left a profound impression on them.
GT has specific size requirements for producing parts of various specifications. The Raise3D Pro2 and Pro3 offer maximum build volumes of 305 x 305 x 300mm and 300 × 300 × 300 mm, respectively, and the large printing space thus provides GT with the adequate dimensional requirements for different projects.
GT has also been impressed by Raise3D’s intelligent complementary service and management software, RaiseCloud. RaiseCloud is a web-based 3D printing platform that remotely controls, monitors and reports the GT team’s entire print production progress at a glance. Due to the convenience offered by RaiseCloud, engineers can keep track of the status of prints without the need for on-site inspections, saving significant time and effort.
Changing the Bicycle Manufacturing Industry for the Better with 3D Printing
The flexibility and affordability of 3D printing as opposed to traditional methods has changed the way GT manufactures their bicycles, and continues to impact the entire bicycle manufacturing industry as a whole. Prototypes, jigs and fixtures can now be produced at much higher speeds at much lower costs. In addition, bicycle manufacturers can leverage 3D printing to provide customized services, allowing users to personalize the design of components such as bicycle frames, helmets, seats, pedals, bike light housings, handles, and more.
Looking toward the future, 3D printing has the potential to further change the bicycle manufacturing industry because of its compatibility with a wide range of materials. The application of high-strength lightweight materials, such as carbon fiber composites combined with structural optimization, can enable strong but lightweight designs to give the bicycles an even more enhanced performance. Because of this, GT’s engineers have mentioned that the company may try to small batch print end-use bicycle parts in the future. As 3D printing technology improves, so does its potential to change how we think of manufacturing.
Raise3D, as a flexible manufacturing solutions provider, is committed to offering customers more possibilities for achieving the most efficient means of production. GT is just one example of how 3D printing can revolutionize a company’s entire manufacturing process in small but significant ways, saving time, money, and energy to create a more efficient process.