Oct 5, 2011

Trek Bicycles Uses Objet Connex 3D Printer with ABS-like Material to Test Bike Parts in Real Time

3D printing process reduces 4-week prototyping process to just 1 day.

Any avid cyclist knows that to beat the pack on the road or mountain trail you've got to be fast; you've got to pay attention to every detail, and you've got to push every limit. And your bike has to keep up. Trek, the name trusted by competitive and leisure cyclists worldwide, applies these same principles to designing new parts for its top-class bicycles. It uses Objet Connex multi-material 3D printer to speed through design iterations and confirm the fit and function of bike parts early on in the design process - reducing lead times from 28 days to just 1 day, saving precious time to market.

Using the Objet Connex500 multi-material 3D printer, designers in Trek's Prototype Development Group can now print a fully-functional 3D bike part they can use on their bikes in just one day, instead of waiting four weeks for a CNC part. With the prototype parts printed in Objet's new ABS-like material, engineers can test the fit and function in the toughest real-life conditions. They can insert a 3D printed prototype into a working bicycle and take it out on the trail to test performance - early on in the design cycle, when it's easier and cheaper to adjust the part design.

In 2010, When Trek was searching for a new solution for rapid prototyping new bike parts, a demonstration of the Objet Connex500's multi-material 3D printing capabilities made it Trek's ultimate choice. Trek's team were particularly impressed with the machine's unique ability to print both rigid and flexible materials together into a single prototype - enabling their designers to achieve a closer look, feel and function of their intended end-products.

Then, after working with the Objet Connex500 for a short time, additional benefits soon came to fore.

"Our designers have a whole new world to work with for prototyping, says Mike Zeigle, Manager of Trek's Prototype Development Group. "Printing with Objet is much less time-consuming and more cost-effective than using our CNC machines for this purpose; it has reduced our prototype lead times from 4 weeks to just 1 day and in many cases to just hours. With the Objet Connex multi-material 3D printer our engineers can produce multiple design iterations, perfecting our design, way beyond what they could have done if we just relied on CNC parts."

We've got great examples of something that starts out as an Objet part, goes into a CNC part, is fabricated, and then goes on to either a world cup or championship level Trek bicycle, all made with an Objet part from the start."