This week’s selection is the 3D Airless Bicycle Tire by designer Brendan Carberry.
Airless tires are a dream of cyclists everywhere, but no one has so far devised a solution that’s practical. I’m not quite sure this solution is practical, but it is quite interesting, and it’s also 3D printed.
Carberry designed this unique approach to airless tires by implementing printable segments that make up the entire tire circumference. They are shaped to easily clip into the bicycle’s rim.
Each segment is identical, and so one needs only to print the correct quantity to make up the whole tire. Then they are assembled around the tire.
I know what you are thinking: at high speeds the tire spins quickly, and these segments will instantly fly off into orbit, causing a crash.
That won’t happen because the segments are tied together with tie-wraps, as seen here. There’s no way the tire will come loose.
How about the ride quality? The surface of the tire is as smooth as you’d get from a normal bicycle tire, but there’s also some softness involved.
The segments are printed in TPU, which makes them somewhat flexible. However, Carberry has also devised an internal structure that allows for control of the tire softness. By making it denser the tire can simulate higher real air pressures. This particular tire was designed to simulate 35psi.
Another interesting side effect from this design is repairability. With normal tires it’s possible to get damage that destroys the entire tire. However here you would need only swap out one segment — or two if the damage is severe. That means the rider would have to carry a spare segment and some tie-wraps as emergency supplies.
One question I have is the cost of this approach. We don’t know specifically how much material is required to print an entire tire, but let’s take a guess. If the tire weighed 1kg, then it would require a whole spool of TPU, which currently costs around US$25. I can’t see the tire requiring more than two spools, so perhaps the cost of this tire is something under US$50? That’s not a bad price.
As far as I can tell, Carberry has not released the design, although he does operate an online store with a number of other designs. I’m hoping he does place this design on sale, it would be fun to try.