APWorks Light Rider: World’s First 3D-Printed Motorcycle

Is 3D Printing the Future of Motorcycle Frame Manufacturing?

APWorks 3d=printed Light Rider Motorcycle
A compact, single-speed drivetrain and ultra-efficient lithium-ion battery propel the Light Rider down the road. As is common with lightweight electric bikes, the Light Rider uses suspension and brake components commonly found on mountain bikes.©Motorcyclist

It's not often you hear a claim of world's lightest motorcycle, but that's exactly what Airbus subsidiary APWorks claims to have created. Dubbed the Light Rider, and weighing a claimed 77 pounds, we would say it's in with a shout. How light is that by comparison? Consider Honda's tiny CRF50F —with 10-inch wheels and a 49cc engine—weighs in at a claimed 110 pounds with a full 0.7 gallons of fuel. So, 30-plus pounds lighter than the smallest bike Honda makes? Well played, APWorks.

But the claim that makes the Light Rider particularly interesting is that it’s the first 3D-printed motorcycle made. The chassis is where all the technology is. APWork says they employed “bionic algorithms” to design the Light Rider’s hollow-section, web-like frame, which was then created by stacking 30-micron (0.03mm) thick layers of material in a 3D-printing bay. The material used is Scalmolly, a proprietary aluminum-alloy said to be “virtually as strong as titanium.” The frame itself weighs just 13.2 pounds, a figure APWorks says is some 30 percent less than what a conventionally manufactured (hydroformed aluminum) frame would weigh.

As for performance, APWorks claims 0-28 mph in about 3 seconds and a 50 mph top speed—that won’t win any superbike drag races, but for city use the Light Rider should be capable of keeping up with traffic. Of course, as is usually the case in these situations, overall performance isn’t the goal. The Light Rider is a design exercise by an aviation company meant to demonstrate the potential of 3D-printing technology, not as a prototype motorcycle that will see production. That explains the 50,000-euro (about $56,000 at post-time) price tag.

But, this is where it gets really cool. When talking about the Light Rider project, Airbus APWorks CEO Joachim Zettler said, “The complex and branched hollow structure couldn’t have been produced using conventional production technologies such as milling or welding.” And from what we can see in the photos and video of the Light Rider, we believe him. That fact alone opens up a whole new frontier of possibilities for the design and manufacturing of motorcycle frames and chassis. 3D printing might be just gaining momentum, but practical application of the technology in the two-wheeled world seems to be on the horizon.

APWorks Light Rider frame and suspension.
APWorks Light Rider frame and suspension.©Motorcyclist