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Airbus 3D prints electric motorcycle

A unit owned by Airbus has designed a new, 77-pound electric motorcycle capable of being 3D printed. 

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    The CEO of Airbus, Tom Enders, presents the first 3D printed electric motorcycle in Ottobrunn, Germany, Friday May 20, 2016.
    Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP
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BERLIN (AP) — What weighs 77 pounds, goes 50 mph (80 kph) and looks like a Swiss cheese on wheels?

An electric motorcycle made from tiny aluminum alloy particles using a 3D printer.

European aeronautics giant Airbus unveiled the 'Light Rider ' in Germany on Friday. Manufactured by its subsidiary APWorks, a specialist in additive layer manufacturing, the motorcycle uses hollow frame parts that contain the cables and pipes.

The frame weighs just 13 pounds, about 30 percent less than conventional e-motorbikes.

APWorks chief executive Joachim Zettler said the complex, branched hollow structure wouldn't have been possible with conventional production technologies such as milling or welding.

As The Christian Science Monitor reports, 3D printing technology has been used by many companies and national agencies, including the US space agency NASA, to manufacture complex equipment in the past.

3D printing could prove the pinnacle of outsourced manufacturing, according to NASA.

"This new manufacturing process really opened the design space and allowed for part geometries that would be impossible with traditional machining or casting methods,” said David Eddleman, a member of the 3D printing team at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in a press release. “For the valve designs on this engine, we used more efficient structures in the piece parts that resulted in optimized performance."

NASA announced in December that engineers had successfully printed and tested 75 percent of the parts required for a rocket engine, including valves, turbopumps, and injectors. The resulting pieces do not look like traditional engine parts, but they work at least as well.

APWorks is taking orders for a limited run of 50 motorbikes, costing 50,000 euros ($56,095), plus tax, each.

They'll have a range of 37 miles (60 kilometers).

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