From the idea to the finished e-bike
An expert explains
It takes around two years to develop and produce a new e-bike model. An expert explains how an idea becomes a finished e-bike model and why FLYER uses rapid prototyping, 3D printing and CNC samples.
Product Manager at FLYER
Lars Tanner has been with FLYER since 2019 and is responsible for product development. In his free time, you can meet him biking or skiing. Lars rides an Uproc X.
Mountain, Crossover, Tour, UrbanSwiss e-bike pioneer since 1995
“We monitor the market, compile our knowledge and experience from previous models, and collect requests and requirements for a future FLYER e-bike model,” says Product Manager Lars Tanner, describing the start of the development process for a new e-bike model.
As soon as an idea takes shape, it is important to reconcile the different experiences, desires and requirements, and package them in an aesthetically pleasing way. The first idea is then continued with the following steps:
- Discussing design ideas
- Outlining design concepts
- Defining product requirements in detail
- Creating schedules, features and rough lineups
In the course of development, slight modifications are still made to the design due to the construction.
The process of design engineering is very intensive. Product management is in constant contact with the designers and developers of the new e-bike model. A 3D model of the first frame size is created on the computer. In doing so, it is important to strike a balance between technical requirements and design ideas.
New motors and batteries are often under development at the same time. It often takes several rounds of development to ensure that all components fit together perfectly. Another challenge is having enough space to store all the necessary cables for the components in the frame. At the same time, the frame should be as light as possible and impress with its design long term.
Rapid prototyping with frame design
Lars Tanner explains: “As soon as the framework design is finished, we check it with the help of rapid prototyping.” With the finished frame design, FLYER contacts various frame suppliers and solicits offers. Which framework supplier receives the order depends on various factors. For example, the capacity of the production facilities, the manufacturing costs and, of course, the experience gained from previous orders.
Rapid prototyping involves creating a sample using a 3D printer based on 3D CAD data (three-dimensional Computer-Aided-Design). A prototype is created quickly and cost-effectively. With the help of the prototype, errors and inaccuracies in the physical model can be detected at an early stage. The physical model can be viewed more closely than is possible with the virtual model on the computer. It is easier for those involved to give feedback.
When developing an e-bike, we use 3D printing to be able to produce a tangible prototype as quickly as possible. This allows us to identify any errors and inaccuracies at an early stage and save time and resources in development.
Realization of implementation
The selected frame supplier receives the detailed data for production and checks whether it can manufacture the frames accordingly in its production facilities. Manufacturers often have customization requests, which in turn are discussed with the developers – until the final version has been approved by all parties involved. The frames are then produced.
At the same time, Lars Tanner deals with various topics:
- Creating instructions for painting the frame
- Organizing components for sample setups
- Preparing bikes for product launch
For bikes with an aluminum frame, a ridable CNC model is created. With the CNC model (Computerized Numerical Control), the simple parts of the frame are already made from the tool, while the complicated parts of the frame are manufactured using the CNC machine. All parts are then welded into a frame. Product management checks whether the manufacturer has met all requirements and whether the correct components can be installed.
Put to the test
A critical point in the development of an e-bike is testing by an external testing institute. To this end, FLYER works with the company Zedler in Germany.
Zedler checks whether new e-bike frames of any size and frame shape comply with the standards and regulations for the authorized total weight. The manufacturer can only start series production of the frames once the new frame passes the tests.
“We then hand over the new model from product management to the operative departments,” says Lars Tanner.
The first step is to place a material order together with the Purchasing team.
In addition, this results in:
- Assembly instructions for production
- Marketing documents
- Images and renderings (digital images from the 3D data)
- Instruction manuals
- Training documents for employees
At the end, Lars Tanner proudly sums up: “All in all, the development process takes around 24 months across all process steps. The construction of the first rapid prototyping frame and the first test ride with a mobile sample bike are always absolute highlights for us. And at the end of the day, we in Product Management are delighted to make many FLYER customers happy with a new e-bike.”