3D printing company Carbon and American bicycle manufacturer Specialized are tackling the issue of uncomfortable bike seats with the help of 3D printing. Together, the companies are developing the “first digitally printed bike saddle” which is designed to improve not only comfort for the rider, but also performance and protection.
The bike saddle, called the S-Works Power Saddle, combines Carbon’s 3D printing and materials with Specialized’s knowledge of bicycle manufacturing. Made using a process called “Mirror Technology,” the saddle integrates a complex lattice structure designed to absorb impact and improve stability, resulting in a comfier and safer biking experience.
“Carbon and Specialized share a mission to challenge the acceptable, create the extraordinary and ultimately make products that enable people to push the limits of what’s possible,” said Dr. Joseph DeSimone, CEO and Co-Founder of Carbon. “Our partnership with Specialized represents not only a breakthrough in bike saddle technology, but also our companies’ shared commitment to drive meaningful change by making products that improve human health and well-being.”
Cyclists everywhere know the importance of having a good bike seat—anyone who has been on a bike for more than 15 minutes with a bad seat will tell you all about it. In fact, saddle discomfort can have some serious repercussions, such as nerve pain, numbness and urinary problems. Many will argue, however, that the perfect bike seat has yet to be invented; one which achieves a high level of comfort for the rider all without compromising performance or stability.
Carbon and Specialized are hoping to combine their respective areas of expertise to bring to market a bike saddle which is viable on all three fronts.
“Specialized has a long history of improving the rider experience,” said Garrett Gatter, Specialized Product Manager of Saddles. “We created our first Body Geometry saddle 25 years ago to address serious issues impacting cyclists. Together with Carbon, we are challenging the norms of the cycling world, from design to production time, to create technology that will allow riders to improve performance, increase comfort and reduce the chance of injury. With Mirror Technology, we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.”
The integration of a lattice geometry into the 3D printed saddle (made from EPU 41) enables the S-Works Power Saddle to rebound quickly—similar to suspension for the rider’s sit bones. The hollow lattice structure, which was designed using Specialized’s pressure mapping techniques is also light (weighing only about 189 grams) and breathable, adding another layer of comfort to the cycling experience. So far, the saddle has been tested by a number of cyclists—both men and women—and Carbon reports overwhelmingly positive feedback.
The 3D printed bike saddle was realized thanks to Mirror Technology, which is enabled by Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis process. Leveraging the technology, Carbon and Specialized were able to dramatically speed up development and testing timeframes. That is, while it would typically take up to two years to develop a new bike saddle, the partners were able to design and develop the product in 12 months, while still testing over 70 designs.
According to the 3D printing company, it was able to reduce the design process from six months to just two by cutting design iterations down to just a day. Thanks to this rapidly advancing timeline, the new saddle is expected to become available in 2020. Though pricing schemes have yet to be divulged, we do know that the saddle will be available in two sizes (143mm and 155mm widths).
Carbon’s 3D printed sporting goods
Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology (DLS) has increasingly been used for the production of advanced sporting equipment. Famously, the 3D printing company partnered with Adidas to mass produce 3D printed midsoles for FutureCraft 4D sneakers. More recently, Carbon also teamed up with Riddell to develop an innovative 3D printed helmet, the SpeedFlex Precision-Fit Diamond helmet, using its new L1 3D printing platform.