"Every bicycle is unique, we never make two of the same kind"
Ideas generated an urban bicycle - anything is possible at Otaniemi
Urban Mill, located at Otaniemi in the heart of Espoo Innovation Garden, is a place of wonder and innovation. It is where people meet each other, and make and create novel things. One source of pride for Urban Mill is a bicycle paraded on the wall, but it is not your run-of-the-mill bike. It is a unique one-off piece that many people dream of designing. Kim-Niklas Antin turned his dreams into reality.
Antin is the leading figure behind the ideas2cycles project. Ideas2cycles is a perfect example of the strong sense of community and enabling environment that Otaniemi and the surroundings of Urban Mill, in particular, can offer. Anything is possible when you have a place where you do and innovate great things without large investments and which provides an extensive network of different experts.
Tailored solutions through 3D printing
Ideas2cycles develops bicycle concepts with new kinds of manufacturing techniques and materials. The company uses 3D printing to manufacture connection pieces for the bikes it assembles.
'Every bicycle is unique, we never make two of the same kind', Kim-Niklas Antin says.
This whole new manufacturing method enables the user to obtain a customized product.
'We can make bikes tailored people of different height. We can customize the stiffness, shape and appearance. The longer the person, the stiffer the frame has to be', Antin describes.
Ideas2cycles can also manufacture a bicycle frame branded for a certain company, for instance.
The idea for a self-assembly bike was born when Antin came across different materials and manufacturing techniques during the final stage of his Master's studies at the Department of Engineering Design and Production at Aalto University. He is a bicycle enthusiast and, like many others, had long dreamed of manufacturing his own bike.
'However, most people lack the facilities and equipment, and not everyone possesses the competence, either.'
Antin, a student at Aalto, was fortunate. Otaniemi provided excellent facilities and tools.
'I was able to utilize equipment at the Department of Engineering Design and Production, and I started to manufacture the first prototype. It was ugly and heavy, but it was self-made. The next one was much easier to manufacture.'
There have been 15 prototypes in all.
'Most of them have been discarded after they were deemed functional.'
Still, Antin has more than enough bikes around.
'I have more prototypes than I can keep. I've got eight bicycles at home and about five bikes elsewhere', Antin laughs.
Antin, with a background in engineering, partnered with J-P Virtanen who studies industrial design.
'I needed an industrial designer to complement my own expertise. An interdisciplinary approach has been a strong part of the product development for the bicycle.'
Virtanen was already a familiar figure in Urban Mill. Actually, he is one of the pioneers in the Otaniemi community - interested in 3D printing and design. J-P carried an ideas2cycles bicycle with him to Urban Mill where people can go and marvel at it.
'We have been tinkering for about five years. Everything we can, we have done by ourselves. We have not counted the hours. The best solutions have been discovered through trial and error.'
Drawings on the Web
Manufacturing a unique bicycle takes from a few weeks to a year. The Indie bike took about a year to design. It has the wires and batteries inside a box frame - an innovation made possible by sheet metal engineering. The Indie consists of approximately 20 laser-cut, rectangular pieces that are bonded together by means of glue and rivet joints.
The Indie e-bike made a name for itself in the Plootu Fennica sheet metal design contest, arranged by the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries, where it won the category for educational establishments in 2014.
Drawings for the e-bike are available for download online, in the Open Source spirit. Anyone can use them to make the kind of bicycle they like.
'Our premise for the design is that all parts of the frame can be easily ordered from a subcontractor, and the user can perform the assembly. This is a completely different approach in comparison with industrial companies that manufacture frames today.'
The duo of Antin and Virtanen still constitute the core team for ideas2cycles. They ask others for help when and where necessary.
'We do this in our spare time. Our bicycles are not intended for average bike riders or the mass market. We have not applied for a patent, but will immediately publish all new ideas in our own name.'
However, Antin hopes to find partners associated with manufacturing techniques and materials.
'Perhaps this is the beginning for a new fashion trend', Antin muses.
'Even mountain biking got its start when people first rode grandma bikes in the woods.'
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