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The worst possible thing happened when this university demonstrated their 3D-printed bike

Damn. Picture: Ottawa Citizen/YouTube

You have to feel sorry for these engineering students who were ready to unleash their 3D-printed bicycle on the world.

The Carleton University second-years invited the media to view their bike in action, and in particular the way in which they had overcome the shortfall of 26cm plastic parts not being “a great structural material”.

Crack that, they thought, and we’ve moved a long way down the track toward creating the “IKEA of bikes”.

Before we go to the video, the bike’s creators James Nugent and Michael Mackay-MacLaren cut straight to the problem for the media afterward.

“Once we had attached wheels and a seat, we were ready to sit on the final product to see if it could withstand the weight of a person,” they said.

“Ignoring the known weaknesses, like the part where the printer had run out of plastic and not finished the print or the one with a small crack, we decided to go for it.”

So, let’s roll the tape:

The rider is the bike’s other co-creator, Gabriel Wong, and that was the first test run.

The bike snapped at the head tube and the trio admitted afterward it had been printed hollow, not solid. To be fair, they took it remarkably well in their stride, offering this upbeat statement:

“With the frame being tested we now had to examine the wreckage to identify the failure methods. As engineers we take failure as the optimal chance to refine and redesign any flaws we find in our original design. In the near future we will be testing again with the hope of finishing before the looping makes us too dizzy to think.”

So let’s put it down to the exuberance of youth. It’s purely an unfortunate accident and these types of stuff-ups plague tech demonstrators more than anyone. It’s the nature of the business.

But it also highlights the biggest hurdle the 3D printing industry has to overcome, namely convincing people to make the shift away from the certainty of their present life to something which just feels suspiciously cheap and appears too easy.

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