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Print your own motorcycle parts?

BMW Motorrad iparts 3D printing parts print
BMW Motorrad iparts 3D printer

BMW riders in remote areas who break a small part such as a lever, mirror or indicator lens could one day be able to print new parts on a mobile printer in their top box or panniers.

A bigger, permanently installed 3D printing system would also be available to BMW retailers to overcome delays in ordering parts from overseas.

BMW Motorrad says the mobile and permanent printers will be launched in September 2018.

However, the announcement came on April 1, so we expect it to be an elaborate April Fool’s Day joke.

BMW is famous for such jokes. Last year they “announced” a two-wheel-drive version of its R 1200 GS Adventure would be available later in the year. Of course, it never happened.

This appears to be yet another BMW April Fool’s Day joke.

However, the company never seems to stray too far from the unbelievable.

It is already possible to 3D-print parts and it is not inconceivable that sometime soon we will be able to print them on the run from a machine in our bike’s luggage.

Bavarian buffoons

The Bavarian jokesters are famous for their April Fool’s Day jokes, having begun running spoof advertisements on April 1 in the early 1980s.

BMW’s marketing department says April Fool jokes are “designed to teeter on the verge of credibility” and often focus on a new and revolutionary piece of technology, but “push the idea just beyond the plausible.”

Some of their other April 1 pranks were a self-cleaning car, remote-inflatable tyres, dog-repellent bumpers, tyres that melted snow and a self-driving car that follows you when you go for a jog. The last one is now becoming reality with self-driving cars!

This is their second motorcycle prank after the two-wheel-drive GS from last year.

Print parts on the go

BMW Motorrad’s press release says they have developed a 4.5kg lighter top box to house the printer.

The special top box would feature a layer of carbon reinforced polymer fibre to reduce noise and vibration and integrates the power supply so there are no visible cables.BMW Motorrad iparts 3D printing parts print

The press release says riders could download the design and material specifications for the part from the “BMW iCloud” (something that doesn’t exist as far as we can find) using their phone, tablet or PC.

If they are heading into remote areas with no internet or phone signal can, they say riders could save on their phones the designs for parts they think they might need from the optional BMW Motorrad iParts Explorer before leaving home.

Parts would be able to be printed out in plastic, glass, aluminium, steel and even titanium using a process called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS).

Imagine carrying all the spare materials just in case you broke something!

Extreme tests

Here is the most ludicrous of the BMW Motorrad claims … they say they successfully tested the iPart 3D mobile printer in temperature extremes in the Australian Outback and even Antarctica.

Over summer, it was allegedly tested in the Australian outback at temperatures of more than 48C and with high volumes of dust. That’s entirely possible.

But they also say the mobile printer was tested in minus 50C in the Antarctic by riders on four BMW R 1200 GS motorcycles that went all the way to the South Pole.

The BMW Motorrad testing team allegedly followed in the footsteps of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, reaching the South Pole on December 16, 2017, exactly 106 years after Amundsen’s discovery.

BMW Motorrad iparts 3D printing parts
Roald Amundsen at the South Pole with his GS dogs

The say the team even printed aluminium tent poles to create a shelter from blizzards!

Quick replacement parts

Printing parts with a 3D printer is highly plausible. It has already been done. In fact, whole motorcycles have been 3D printed.

3d Light Rider bike
Joachim Zettler (left), CEO of Airbus APWorks GmbH, and Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders presenting ‘Light Rider’, the world’s first 3D-printed motorcycle

However, they would also be very expensive with the costs passed on to cashed-up customers who have no patience to wait for parts to be imported from overseas.

This technology will no doubt become cheaper in coming years and possibly one day replace the expensive current system of  shipping parts from overseas and warehousing them in case of orders.

Currently, some motorcycle distributors only order parts from overseas as needed, resulting in riders waiting weeks before getting their bikes back on the road.

Maybe one day … but not in September this year!