The extra mile
Mass customization of bicycle saddles
Published 15 November 2021

Project Breakdown
Industry: Consumer Goods
Product: Bicycle Saddle
Partners: Fizik, BASF Forward AM, atum3D, Innovation Lab

The Vision

Within the arena of competitive cycling, customized bicycle saddles are the crucial elements in the pursuit of peak performance. Engineers and athletes work together to achieve seamless power transfer, aerodynamics, sit bone support and reduced pressure on soft tissues. The bicycle saddle makes or breaks a race — there is no room for compromise.

For the rest of us everyday cyclists and aficionados, we have to settle for off-the-shelf saddles, which may not even offer a comfortable ride, let alone boost cycling performance. These off-the-shelf saddles are, more likely than not, fabricated with foam. It is a material that has improved leaps and bounds in the past decades, but it hit a plateau in terms of structural and design freedom.

These shortcomings in design and material development presented an opportunity for Hyperganic and our partners to radically accelerate the innovation of bicycle saddles — we envision a future where all cyclists, casual commuters and elite athletes alike, can gain access to saddles that are tailored to their physique and customized to every use.

Achieving the Vision with Algorithmic Engineering

While the concept of customized 3D-printed bicycle saddles has been around for a few years now, a scalable workflow made for mass customization and serial production has not been available — until now.

Hyperganic worked with its partners Fizik, the Italian bicycle saddle brand, BASF Forward AM, the German material manufacturer, atum3D, the Dutch 3D Printer manufacturer, and InnovationLab, the German printed and organic electronics expert to make the vision of going from 3D body scans to bike-ready saddles through a fully-automated reality.

The starting point in the mass customization of bicycle saddles is to digitally create a faithful representation of the cyclist’s body and translate it into usable information. That is where InnovationLab’s sensor comes in to generate pressure maps, indicating the precise mass and pressure intensities that are applied by the cyclists’ bone structures.

To seamlessly go from pressure maps to personalized saddle designs, our team at Hyperganic created a purpose-built app on top of the Hyperganic Core platform. Hyperganic Core provides a suite of algorithmic engineering blocks to automatically design the thousands of struts that make up a saddle’s lattice structure. In this step, the surface contours and lattice beam thicknesses are automatically modulated according to the input pressure maps.

On top of being able to select from a variety of lattice designs for the functional base of the saddle, we can also choose an aesthetic outer lattice structure to achieve both form and function. This combination of different lattice structures is a good example of how Hyperganic Core effortlessly automates processes that were previously manual and time-consuming.

To further minimize peak-pressure points, we can tailor functional zones within each lattice structure that deliver unprecedented comfort for casual commuters and a performance leap for competitive cyclists.

The saddles at the end of the algorithmic design process are objects so complex and intricate that they can only be additively manufactured and that is when BASF Forward AM and atum3D contribute their expertise to achieve this shared vision.

BASF Forward AM’s reactive urethane photopolymer Ultracur3D® EL 150 is the perfect fit as the material of the next-generation saddle. Together with the unique lattice designs, this material achieves the sweet spot between stiffness and compliance for use on every terrain.

To bring the designs into their final forms, we partnered atum3D to produce the mass-customized saddles with its DLP Station 5-365 EXZ printer. The printer’s large build envelope, combined with the possibility of print setting adjustments, enables new levels of waste minimization and cost-effectiveness geared for industrial-scale manufacturing.

“3D Printing technology has been the dawn of a new era for performance cycling saddles, it gave us the ability to design paddings with seamlessly engineered zonal cushioning without the constraints or limitations imposed by traditional production methods and materials. But we are yet to tap into the true potential of this manufacturing technology, the ability to serially produce individual bespoke solutions for every cyclist.

Starting from riders’ biometric information, Algorithmic Engineering proves to be a key step towards mass customization, and we have made it a reality with Hyperganic.”

Giovanni Fogal
Brand Manager, Fizik

Hyperganic and its partners presented a sneak peek into the future of consumer goods through this case study. In this future, design is data-driven and mass customization powers serial production.

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