Italian e-bike manufacturer Thok is breaking new ground in product development. In collaboration with the Belgian company Materialise, Thok developed a prototype for a full-suspension e-mountain bike using 3D metal printing. This uses a special aluminum-silicon alloy powder. According to Thok, it is the first working model of a complete e-bike from a 3D printer.
THOK’s mission is to develop e-bikes that feature high performance, fun and a distinctive Italian style. The models result from careful work, technical tests and countless hours on the test bench.
For example, the MIG model has a low center of gravity thanks to the positioning of the battery under the down tube, which ensures optimal weight distribution. The TK01, on the other hand, scores with its solid front end, which offers high stability at high speeds.
“It is impossible to obtain a running prototype and reproduce the necessary battery and motor integration with a traditional method. There are components that are made by hydroforming, which require moulds, and which would not otherwise be prototype-able. Even carbon prototypes are not functional, they do not hold up on long field testing sessions. In this sense, the first fully moulded full-suspended e-bike we made solves a big problem”, explains THOK industrial designer Luca Burzio, who follows the projects from the engineering side.
For this challenging task, THOK sought out a renowned partner in Materialise. Materialise uses the SLM process, in which lasers melt metal powder. An aluminum-silicon alloy was chosen for the Thok P4 project.
“In the past, we used to make successive revisions of projects. We studied no less than three prototype frames before making the first running model. With the Thok P4, the first revision is already a model with the thicknesses and distances typical of carbon fibre, produced to be assembled and above all pedalled with a feeling very close to the definitive bike”, explains THOK CEO Stefano Migliorini.
“The project with THOK allowed us to extend our experience into the bicycle sector and set the metal 3D printing to a new level. This collaboration gave us the opportunity to refine our metal additive manufacturing capabilities to find answers to the precise requirements of the Italian company”, explains Simone Cannella, business development manager at Materialise.
The pioneering work done by THOK and Materialise promises an innovative future in the e-bike sector. It will be exciting to see how 3D printing evolves in this industry.