Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printed Rubber-like Wheels


Tessa Blokland  

The prototype of the 3D printed MICHELIN Visionary Concept, the tire as a wheel.

The Dutch have a real cycling mentality. We cycle to school, to work, to home juggling with bags full of groceries, kids at the back and front while handling the phone for a quick call. From a very young age Dutch children learn how to cycle, and with cycling also comes how to repair flat tires. Well, that is how I remember my youth. Nowadays with current rubber-like 3D printable materials, I fear flat tires are history. Here are some examples of forever flat free 3D printed rubber wheels.

Here is an example of a 3D printed tire shape showing the used material, TPU. TPU bridges the material gap between rubbers and plastics. It has great physical properties for durable 3D prints; it offers flexibility without the use of sometimes problematic plasticizers.

This 3D printed wheel is an example of Formlab’s Flexible resin. On Formlab‘s website you can read more about the use of the material for the right design and tips for the printing process.

Another example of a flexible 3D printed tire is the Project Blue scale model of a car, which is a 5-part car design study in physics, design, and modeling by the CATIA software division of Dassault Systèmes in order to show potential customers the ability to prototype an automobile. The tires are 3D printed on a Stratasys Objet260 Connex multi-material 3D printer.

Another example of TPU is the 3D printed wheels by Sculpteo. Although flexible to a certain point, the material is still strong and durable enough for demanding terrain.

One of the most spectacular tire designs last year was Michelin‘s 3D printed completely biodegradable tire, which was presented at Movin’On in Montreal last year (also up top). The tire/wheel is spectacular because it is a wheel with no air, designed to last as long as the car itself. The honeycomb structure is inspired by nature, made of recycled materials and is fully recyclable. Second, when worn out you can 3D print a new tread in a matter of minutes. 3D printing is an additive technology, meaning that it adds the quantity of material that is necessary.

The last example of a 3D printed airless tire was designed by Berlin-based startup BigRep. The time of repairing flat tires is over, but it is also possible to customize the tire to your needs. BigRep’s product designer Marco Mattia Cristofori states on their website: “We were able to replace ‘air’ as a necessity in the tire by customizing the pattern to be one of a three-layered honeycomb design. Based on the same principle, the design can be altered to fit the requirements of specific kinds of biking, such as mountain biking and road racing, or for different weather and speed conditions.” The tire is 3D printed on the BigRep ONE large-scale 3D printer with Pro FLEX. This material has flexible properties, coupled with high-temperature resistance and durability.

All promising examples, right? I wonder when I will see the first 3D printed tire/wheel on the Dutch streets.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3DPrintedRubber-likeWheels

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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