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Gear shift lever by Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA

Big cost-saving innovation in small batches

The team of Motorcross Racing Technologists at Kawasaki Motors Corp., USA, is responsible for the mechanical design of many of the specific components for Kawasaki Motocross Racing motorcycles.

By adopting 3D printing, the team is able to leverage a manufacturing process that allows fast design iteration, the production of parts within a short timeframe. They can also create unusual parts that might be more difficult with subtractive methods – or only possible with injection molding, which can be inefficient for small volume batches.

Challenge

Kawasaki were using a motorbike shift lever that required multiple jigs and two different specialized CNC machines to be created. Improvements and customizations were costly and time-consuming to implement.

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The 3D printed stainless steel part lasts longer and is cheaper to produce than CNC-milled aluminum

Solution

A new shift lever was created using MFFF that was able to benefit from more complex curvatures to be created at no extra cost. The new design was self-cleaning which eliminates the possibility of mud causing important shifting component to lock up during a race.

As an added advantage, the “Fuzzy skin” setting in Ultimaker Cura made it possible to automatically apply a texture to the surface of the part that provided more grip for the pro-rider’s boots.

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Spot the difference. Here is Kawasaki's gear shift lever after 3D printing, debinding, and sintering

Results

Print timeWeightCost
2 hours 51 minutes80 g$11.93

The use of MFFF technology now makes it possible to create custom shift levers for each rider without needing to make new fixtures or CNC programming.

The new 17-4PH stainless steel material also lasts far longer than the previous aluminum component that would wear out in a mere 6 hours of riding. The result is a much more cost-effective part with increased options for customization and improvement.

Motorcross Racing Technologist, Jeremy Robinson explains:

I have seen first-hand the benefits of 3D printing that has allowed for our team to constantly push the envelope in terms of evolution and design of our motorcycles to perform at the highest level of competition.

Shift to a higher gear for your 3D printing

Kawasaki's use case perfectly showcases the savings and innovation possible when metal 3D printing is made easier and more affordable. Click below to explore more MFFF applications stories. Or discover how to buy the Ultimaker Metal Expansion Kit yourself.

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