The mythical dream of 3-D printing is all about customization. Imagine: scanning your anatomy and then getting a “print” of anything to fit you perfectly. It’s bespoke goods on steroids — and it has only remained fiction because actual 3-D printed output tends to be brittle and non-conforming. Until now.
Bikemaker Specialized has teamed with a Silicon Valley titan called Carbon that’s conquered the problem of printing on a large scale to the extent that they now have contracts with Ford and Lamborghini to make thousands of car parts. But Carbon’s bigger breakthrough is in creating products that are flexible as well as strong so that they can conform to the human body.
Specialized’s new Power Saddle, coming in 2020, uses 14,000 individual lattices (think of it like a very, very ornate hammock) that continually flexes and changes during a ride. The result: it’s stunningly comfy. Unlike foam, which settles and squishes (and creates friction against your hindquarters), the Power Saddle created zero hotspots or pain points during our exclusive two-hour test. It remained comfy throughout, even while we rode the bone-jarring dirt roads near Specialized’s Headquarters in Morgan Hill, California.
And the story gets better; we weren’t even on a custom saddle. Specialized’s notion is that when this program gets rolling early next year, a buyer will be able to get fit on a pressure mapping tool at their local dealer that will perfectly measure their caboose, identifying where they need relief and support. That data would then get fired off to Carbon, which will print the perch and mail it to the dealer for delivery.
If all goes according to plan, Specialized will also be able to do custom footbeds, and eventually handlebar-tops and bike grips shaped to mirror your palms, and possibly helmet liners, too — football helmet maker Riddell has already worked with Carbon on such a project.
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