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  1. #1

    3D Printing A Motorcyle Seat - is this possible? (Looking for ideas)

    Hey guys,

    I'm currently trying to set up a business making aftermarket comfort seats for specific motorcycle models. I already have a supplier who can design and build the foam and cover for the seat. I have also made a prototype seat which is perfect and has received great feedback so far. However, the seat was built onto an original seat base pan of the bike (basically just foam and cover ripped off and replaced).

    So essentially the only thing I need is to figure out a way to manufacture the plastic base pan in order to build a complete product. However, the issue is that if making the plastic part using a mould, creating the mould would cost a few thousand USD minimum. Since the models are very bike-specific, I would need to get massive sales volume to make it worth it. Secondly, as bikes evolve and new models come up, I would need to always get new plastic bases designed, so it would really only work with sigfinicant volume.

    My question is, would it be doable to 3D print the plastic part of a motorcycle seat? What would be a rough estimate cost per unit? It would obviously need to be very resistant material and not snap easily.

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  2. #2
    Engineer-in-Training
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    Jun 2014
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    It's common in high-strength DIY applications to create the model you wish via 3D printing, disregarding the strength requirement. This model is then post-processed to remove layer lines (if so desired) and support material surface irregularities. The next step is to create a silicone mold from the positive model.

    That mold can be used to cast higher strength resin which can be used repeatedly for multiple parts.

    Silicone mold material is available with various characteristics. Some are high temperature, some will cast out in different hardness levels and durability is another factor of importance for semi-production use.

    Costs are difficult to determine from your message or from my reply, but less difficult once you've printed your model and know the volume it occupies, as that will be the volume of casting resin required for each part. The cost of the silicone mold material will be a factor, of course, but will be spread over the quantity of parts created from a single (or multiple) mold(s).

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by fred_dot_u View Post
    It's common in high-strength DIY applications to create the model you wish via 3D printing, disregarding the strength requirement. This model is then post-processed to remove layer lines (if so desired) and support material surface irregularities. The next step is to create a silicone mold from the positive model.

    ...

    .
    Thanks for your reply. What would be the purpose of doing the prototype via 3D printing in this case, if the final product will be done by other means (i.e. using a silicone mold)? Couldn't I just use the original plastic of the bike to create the mold?

    I was mainly curious to see if only 3D printing could be used to make the actual final product, without the need for creating a mold. Interesting about the silicone molds though, I will do some more research on this.

  4. #4
    Engineer-in-Training
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    That's a well-qualified response. I'm more accustomed to working with model designs from software, rather than a real-world object and neglected to consider your point.

    The only method I can fathom would be SLS nylon printing. It's astonishingly strong, but equally astonishingly expensive and typically used for smaller model creation. Something the size of a seat pan would be really expensive.

    If you can create a scanned model in software of the desired seat pan, you may be able to find a hobby CNC owner willing to carve out an injection mold. For CNC owners, the harder part is the model creation. Once that is in hand, the machine does the hard work. Not cheap, I'm sure, but still an option.

  5. #5
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    you could print a working injection mould from PEEK.

    don't think anyone is offering that service yet, but given the difference in cost - it will be a thing at some point.

    If you had a suitable printer large enough you could print the seat in one or 2 pieces. PEEK would more than do the job.

    Now it all depends what you intend to sell the seats for and what kind of profit you expect to make on each one.
    The biggest printer I know of, fully capable of peek (and everythig else) is the mini-factory ultra: https://minifactory.fi/3d-printer/

    Not knowing what a plastic base pan looks like - can't really make many other suggestions. Got any pictures ?

    It's possible you could use one of the more engineering oriented filaments. ninjatech's armadillo comes to mind.
    It's a rigid, lightweight polyurethane and the prints are phenomenal - way stronger than injection moulded abs - and any standard printer will print it easily.

    So what sort of size are we looking at ?

  6. #6
    No you wouldn't, the cost would be uneconomical and the amount of post finishing to make a usable injection mould tool would negate any benefit.
    Plus you then need an injection moulder that can handle a tool the size of a motorcycle seat.

    If the output numbers are low, then direct manufacture via laser sintering in PA12 or similar would be the best option. Many service bureaus would be able to help with tweeking the design to make it fit for purpose and ready for small series production. Anything requiring moulds will have to be justified by the production numbers and the longevity of the moulding materials. Typical silicone moulding would use PU resins which will not last as a finished product.

    My background- 20+ yrs in prototyping and Additive Manufacturing and riding motorbikes
    (and I run the UK's only PEEK AM centre)

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