For Mark Richardson, design can be about re-purposing waste and thinking of ways to extend the life of existing, but disused, products through re-usability.
Formerly a senior designer at Ford Motor Company, Richardson worked on high profile automotive industry projects like the Ford Territory, the R7 show car, the European Mondeo and the Asia Pacific Fiesta.
Now, as part of his PhD research at Monash University in Melbourne, Richardson focuses on coming to an understanding of contemporary transportation design trends. Richardson is working to find ways to advance ecological and social imperatives for sustainable mobility systems. To make it happen, Richardson is trying to create what he calls "upcycled products" using social methodology and open-source hardware to produce vehicles.
His DIY Velomobile, essentially a lightweight trike with a fairing which can be assembled with common household tools, scrap materials and off-the-shelf components, is bound together with couplers made with digitally-fabricated 3D printed parts. Richardson developed a system of modular and reusable components for the bike as form of personal transport in hopes that his project would help eliminate waste in the supply chain.
A velomobile, otherwise known as a "bicycle car," is basically a human-powered vehicle designed to be enclosed to achieve aerodynamic advantages and protection from weather and collision. Most often single-passenger vehicles, velomobile mechanical systems are generally derived from recumbent bicycle and tricycle designs and then fitted with a full fairing (or aerodynamic shell). They are also sometimes called "streamliners," and these human-powered vehicles have, in their most advanced forms, achieved speeds in excess of 70 mph.
There are few manufacturers of velomobiles; some are home-built. Some models have the operator's head exposed; this has the advantage of giving the operator unobstructed vision, hearing, and some cooling, with the disadvantage of being more exposed to weather and less aerodynamic. Similar vehicles that are not human-powered are called microcars. Hybrid vehicles exist which can use both human power and assistance by an electric motor.
Richardson's parametric, 3D printed couplings are designed specifically to the inner diameter of the tubes into which they are fitted to demonstrate the advantage of 3D printing as an adaptable system of, as it were, reproduction using available manufactured materials. By measuring the inner diameter of tubes a user might be able to source locally, and then by parametrically updating a digital file, one can 3D print only the quantity of connectors needed to build a given machine.
The compression tubes and readily available standard M8 eye bolts are then used to attach the tensile wires which give the FAB Velo its structure.
According to Richardson, he reclaimed the main components for the project from a discarded weed-whacker, discarded bicycles, old tent parts and leftover wheelchair parts.
And due to its basic design, no welding is required to make the Velomobile.