Just as the bicycle has evolved from the 19th-century penny-farthing, the bike saddle has advanced significantly over the years—from wooden planks to hard steel and leather, to foam. And while foam materials have been the benchmark for years, we are now seeing a new, highly promising era for bike seats that elevates performance, comfort and safety by using intelligent design, cutting-edge materials and 3D printing. Partners Carbon, OECHSLER and Specialized are leading this emerging trend in bicycle saddles with the launch of the S-Works Romin Evo with Mirror technology, a unique product that exemplifies not only how 3D printing can take cycling to the next level but also how it is revolutionizing product development.
While we can today admire the state-of-the-art 3D printed bike seat, much had to happen for the product to be realized. Similar to how a bicycle relies on many seamlessly working components to ride smoothly, the development of the S-Works Romin Evo saddle involved many simultaneously working parts. As we’ll see, Specialized, Carbon, and OECHSLER have each brought a unique set of skills and capabilities to the table, demonstrating how an innovative spirit, repeatable additive manufacturing and a scalable production workflow can create a new, market-ready product in record time.
Learn about the bike saddle’s pioneering production method.
Join the webinar on November 10 and 11
The story of the saddle
Specialized, a U.S.-based bike manufacturer, has dedicated itself to improving the experience of cyclists by using a data-driven, technology-forward approach to designing new bike parts. When conventional processes and materials fell short of Specialized’s vision for optimized bike saddles, the company went outside the box and reached out to 3D printing company Carbon. Seeing the potential of 3D printing for enabling new designs, Specialized started using Carbon’s M1 3D printer to develop and test new saddles.
Around the same time that Specialized acquired its first Carbon M1 3D printer in 2016, Carbon teamed up with German polymer manufacturing company OECHSLER to work on a different project for a global sporting goods OEM. Together, they developed a scalable production process based on Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis™ (Carbon DLS™) technology, enabling the high-volume manufacturing of 3D printed goods. Today, OECHSLER operates one of the largest polymer 3D printing fleets, with over 150 3D printers globally. Since 2019, the company has produced over one million 3D printed products per year.
It wasn’t until 2020, however, that the three companies—Specialized, Carbon and OECHSLER — entered into a formal partnership to develop and validate a new bike saddle and scale its production. The result of this collaboration is the S-Works Romin Evo with Mirror technology. Beyond its innovative design, which we’ll explore further below, the 3D printed saddle was developed within an impressive time frame. Prototyping was complete within four months, and it took just two months for the partners to establish a serial-production process. From the time OECHSLER joined the collaboration, it took just 10 months to launch the innovative 3D printed bike saddle.
“It was fantastic to see the OECHSLER, Specialized and Carbon teams work together to rapidly design, print, test, and repeat to develop a ground-breaking new saddle that takes full advantage of all the benefits that can only be recognized by using additive manufacturing at scale,” said Kelley McCarroll-Gilbert, Business Development Manager at Carbon.
Time to saddle up
The S-Works Romin Evo with Mirror technology was designed for performance cycling, a market that demands both aerodynamic and ergonomic benefits when it comes to saddles. And it’s not just a matter of comfort: a good bike saddle can improve pelvic stability and soft tissue health, reducing the risk of injury for riders.
Designed with this top of mind, the S-Works Romin Evo with Mirror technology offers a superior riding experience thanks to a unique 3D printed lattice structure. Consisting of 22,000 lattice bars with variable thicknesses and cell sizes, the saddle has tunable damping properties and good recovery characteristics. Compared to a foam saddle, for example, the 3D printed seat demonstrates 18% less seating pressure (for a total of 26%). The 190g version of the saddle measures 26 cm in length and between 14.3 and 15.5 cm in width.
The design and structure of the 3D printed saddle are informed by many things, including feedback from ride testers, pressure test data and Specialized’s years of saddle design experience. The final iteration of the product, which was launched in September 2021, was also the result of many different prototypes. The companies prototyped and tested 14 different designs before landing on the final one. Each iteration loop—comprising 3D printing, testing, data collection and analysis—took 21 days on average.
When the final lattice design was chosen, OECHSLER’s team optimized it for serial manufacturing, making adjustments to improve the saddle’s production speed and yield as well as to minimize the production’s environmental impact. At the core of OECHSLER’s serial production workflow is Carbon’s DLS technology, which uses digital light projection and resin materials (in this case, an elastomer material) to generate parts with complex geometries.
Interestingly, OECHSLER also developed a new post-process for the bike saddle in order to achieve the right matte texture and appearance. The post-process development was completed within record time: from the very first trial to serial production, OESCHLER had the process ready within just four months.
“At OECHSLER, we focus on bringing additive manufacturing to industry scale and enabling series production processes,” said Markus Bischoff, Vice President Sales for Additive Manufacturing and Sporting Goods at OECHSLER.
Born from the ambitious minds of Specialized’s development team, brought to life thanks to Carbon’s DLS technology and carried through to serial production with OECHSLER’s expertise, the S-Works Romin-Evo with Mirror technology represents a new, promising future for cycling performance and comfort. More than that, it showcases a new way of developing, testing and manufacturing products that is significantly more agile and more efficient.
Learn more about the bike saddle and its pioneering production method at an upcoming webinar on November 10 and 11, 2021 moderated by 3dpbm’s Davide Sher.