With demand for cycling skyrocketing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder that bicycle parts maker, Shimano, has announced earlier this month that they are investing $179 million on a new Singapore plant to meet demand.
In line with the Land Transport Master Plan 2040 (LTMP 2040) to become a car-lite society, the cycling path network around the island will be increased by a third to 1,000km by 2040.
This coupled with people cycling more often to avoid public transport as well as socially distanced exercising because of COVID-19, the sale of bicycles, bicycle parts, and accessories has been soaring compared to previous years.
But the pandemic has been a double-edged sword with bike brands sometimes struggling to keep up with the surging demand. This is partly due to shipping delays and COVID-19 enforced factory shutdowns leading to supply chain constraints. And this is unlikely to change for the next couple of years as recovery continues slowly in this new normal.
Scheduled to be completed by 2022, the new factory will manufacture high-end transmission parts. The addition will complement their existing factory that was built in 1973 and is earmarked to be “a factory of the future” with an emphasis on new digital technologies such as Data Analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), 3D printing, robotics, etc.
So how does 3D printing fit into the picture?
Taking 3D printing into consideration, you can reduce the manufacturing time of prototypes and end-use parts with in-house 3D printers without worrying about supply chain disruptions.
No individual is the same and the customization possibilities of seat handles, bike handles, etc with unique geometries can potentially open up a whole new market. Because with 3D printing, you can iterate over and over again and have a printed part in your hands in a couple of hours/days instead of outsourcing to a vendor.
With the accessibility of 3D printing, advanced materials, and economics, a future where we may see more 3D printing bicycle parts or even a lightweight bicycle with a 3D printed carbon fiber frame for mass production may not be far off.