Rodin and the world’s first 3D-printed wheels

by Marc Basiliere 7

US-made 1,700g 5-spoke 26in wheelset for £235?

Wait- is that an e-bike?
One of these wheels is not like the other

While the company’s press release makes much of their prototypes having been 3D-printed using Fused Deposition Modeling and hand-finished to the tune of $3,000 apiece, it looks as though Rodin’s wheels will be built in a more conventional manner.  Apparently being put forth as proof-of-capability exercise for Fastcore, LLC’s Rapid Structural Replication technique, production wheels will be injection moulded from an unspecified material.  Dating from the late 1990s, Fastcore’s lost-core technology claims to speed injection moulding, reducing cycle times while allowing for the economical production of complex hollow structures. 

Mags are timeless
Mags are timeless

A descendant of the Spin wheels that were raced through the 90’s, ridden by stuntman Hans Rey in Pacific Blue, seen (on a wheelchair) in the film Avatar, and are “featured in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York,”  Rodin wheels are being offered in 26in only – yes, you read that right – and have a target weight of 1,700-1,900g.  Best of all, Kickstarter pricing is under $400 (£235), and target retail prices still reasonable at $600 (£355) per set.

CNC-machined hubs (thru axles optional)
CNC-machined hubs that look strikingly similar to those Hadley made for Spin

Doing away with Spin’s aluminium brake track simplifies construction and has allowed Rodin to design an outer profile that they claim is extremely resistant to pinch flats.  The hubs’ source isn’t mentioned- but those pictured look an awful lot like those that boutique hub makers Hadley made for Spin.

It’s almost too easy to poke fun at yet another Kickstarter project or another set of fantastic-looking wheels.  (In fact, that was kind of the plan.)  The choice of 26in wheels, availability of quick release axles, and the discussion of tubes and pinch flats (rather than emphasizing what could easily be a tubeless-native design) suggests that the Rodin crew may not quite have their finger on the pulse of the bike industry.

Rodin Wheel 1Which is fine, really.  Fastflow’s 3Drsr technology is already being used to successfully build aftermarket intake manifolds for diesel trucks and the wheels’ target price is surprisingly low. If Rodin can bring their wheels in under 1,800g, ensure decent durability and tubeless compatibility, and maybe even offer a 27.5 model, they are sure to find takers.

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Comments (7)

  1. Skyways are back!!!!

  2. Do we still stick them in the freezer to debuckle?

  3. Did that EVER work with Skyways? 🙂

  4. See- 26″ wheels aren’t dead!

  5. I think that whoever wrote that article and said that Rodin doesn’t have their finger on the pulse of the bike industry maybe understands less about business than Rodin do the bike industry.

    If Rodin are having to do a Kickstarter project it probably means that they are not awash with cash. So if cash flow is an issue and you can only pick one wheel size to start with why wouldn’t you start with what is still the prominent wheel size on bikes that people own? Remember they need to sell these at this stage to go on bikes that are already owned by riders. Also to make sure that they can sell as many as possible why wouldn’t you spec hubs that can be converted between thru and quick release axles to widen your potential market?

  6. Jim,

    “why wouldn’t you start with what is still the prominent wheel size on bikes that people own?”

    My discussions with those within the industry suggest that aftermarket sales of 26in wheels has dropped substantially over the past few years. It’s likely to continue to decline, leveling out at some (low) maintenance level. At the same time, 27.5 sales are growing and 29er sales remain strong. That makes investing in new tooling for 26in wheels, which is typically paid off over a number of years, increasingly hard to justify. That’s why so many companies are focusing their money on the larger two wheel sizes: they have a better chance of their investment paying off.

    While we can argue all day about whether the 4% increase in size justifies making tens of thousands of wheels, frames, and forks eventually obsolete, the reality is that few consumers are spending big money on their 26in bikes at this point. Just as we are seeing fewer and fewer new QR or straight-steerer forks, so we are seeing fewer and fewer new 26in wheels.

    Of course, there is plenty of great 26in kit to go around- and it’s a great time to pick up high-end 26in wheels secondhand or on closeout as their owners move on to the next big thing.

  7. “the worlds first 3D printed wheels”

    Not really – The EADS Airbike did the same thing back in 2011.

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