Stratasys has announced that the University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten in Germany is developing a first-of-its kind 3D printed self-balancing scooter with additive technologies. Tasked with 'thinking additively' to achieve true customisation, the students built the entire product development process for the scooter around additive manufacturing. As a result, the team produced the first fully-functional prototype 85 per cent faster compared to traditional manufacturing methods.
The University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten is participating in a collaborative state university project supported by industry leaders, including Porsche and Siemens. The goal of the research project Digital Product Life Cycle is to establish a fully integrated and automated digital development process for the production of customised products – in this case the development of a one-off self-balancing scooter. The students have been challenged to explore different technologies and processes to overcome the limitations of traditional manufacturing when producing with quantity of one. From idea generation and product design to the creation of complex prototypes for functional testing, designing each stage of the development process for additive manufacturing has been crucial to the success of the project.
“Producing the core prototype parts for the self-balancing scooter was a real stumbling block until we discovered 3D printing,” says Dr.-Ing. Markus Till, Head of Department Mechanical Engineering. “We realised that 3D printing offers the best possible manufacturing solution for an ideal executable product development method for a customised product. We designed the entire product development process around Stratasys’ additive technologies, enabling us to quickly design and produce a fully-functional prototype of a geometry that was previously too complex to be created through any other traditional method – offering the first viable alternative for quick and cost-effective customised production.”
The frame and platform parts of the self-balancing scooter were 3D printed in tough Nylon6 material on the large-scale Stratasys Fortus 900mc Production 3D Printer, enabling the larger parts to be 3D printed in one piece. The self-balancing scooter platform was then fitted with a 3D printed rubber-like cover for better grip, produced in Agilus30 material on the Stratasys Connex3 Colour Multi-material 3D Printer. According to Till, 3D printing the frame and platform of the self-balancing scooter has changed the team’s entire mindset when it came to product development.
“Using traditional manufacturing processes such as milling or moulding, the most notable challenge is developing the scooter’s body frame, which houses several parts from motor to electrics,” he explains. “Firstly, the structure of the part is too complex for subtractive methods, while the turnaround times are too time-intensive to meet the production schedule. As a result, we’ve seen students start to ‘think additively’, leveraging the capabilities of the 3D printing to design with more freedom and with customisation in mind.
Following the successful role of 3D printing for customised production in the self-balancing scooter project, the university has now extended the use of 3D printing to a wider range of engineering projects to verify designs and validate concepts.