Urwahn Engineering GmbH – Sebastian Meinecke

Design Innovation of the Year 2021

Interview with Urwahn Engineering GmbH. about ePDA Design Innovation of the Year: Waldwiesel – the first 3D-printed E-Gravel Bike

Q: 3D printing an e-bike is a concept that wouldn’t occur to everyone – how exactly did the idea for this project come about?

It was a long road to our first bike. Already during his studies, our designer Sebastian Meinecke manufactured bikes with great attention to detail in his own bike manufactory. This is also how the idea for Urwahn came about. The goal was to develop a bike that is user-oriented and that inspires people with a puristic design and technical refinements on all levels. As technology pioneers we want to mobilize people with smart, fair and customized solutions. The focus was especially on balancing design and functionality in favor of the user. Furthermore, we wanted to pay attention to sustainable conditions for all stakeholders and the environment and align a regional production chain. 3D printing allowed us to combine all these points. Our frames can thus be holistically manufactured in Germany and the comfort is ensured by our special soft-ride construction structure, thanks to 3D printing. Accordingly, 3D printing was the perfect solution to realize all our goals from the very beginning.

Q: What do you see as the strengths of your winning project and what does winning Design Innovation of the Year 2021 mean to your team?

With our Waldwiesel.E, we have expanded our portfolio in the offroad sector and stand out from our competitors thanks to the countless configuration options. The special Softride structure breaks with conventional diamond geometry and dispenses entirely with a seat tube to support any weight of the rider. Thus the steel frame is rather opened to the rear, whereby the weight forces and even ground unevenness can be swallowed away. The unusual construction structure thus promises significantly more riding comfort and the organic design resembles that of modern carbon frames, because welds are not visible here and neatly ground. Another strength is definitely the system weight, which we were able to bring down to 14.8 kg thanks to 3D printing. Winning the Design Innovation 2021 means a lot to us because it once again strengthens our efforts for sustainable mobility. We are very pleased that we are also understood on a European level as technology pioneers with a preference for filigree shapes and sophisticated functions.

Q: What were the first questions your team had to ask before the project could even start? 

We have developed our special frame structure to be able to move especially in urban areas. We have designed our bikes so that they are specially adapted to the everyday conditions of the city. Therefore, the first question we had to ask ourselves was whether our frame structure is transferable to the offroad and especially gravel segment. The riding characteristics must be different for offroad than for the city. The stability and geometry played a particularly important role here. 

Q: What were the biggest challenges that you faced throughout this journey? What were the best moments? 

Apart from the frame structure and the technical implementation, COVID-19 was also a major challenge. The bike industry has made a huge leap in the last year and development partners were partially fully utilized. Coordination for timely completion was therefore not always easy. Nevertheless, we still had some advantages due to production in Germany. The best moment was definitely when we could finally present our finished Waldwiesel to the world. The response was very good and that is really the biggest reward one can get for such a big project.

Q: Are you planning on broadening your profile, maybe 3D print other vehicles? 

Of course, the Waldwiesel will not be the last new release in our portfolio. Especially in other bike segments we will want to gain a foothold and constantly expand our portfolio. We will also try to improve our products constantly and experiment with different materials. However, we will probably not move out of the bicycle segment – our heart burns through and through for bicycles.

Q: If there would only be one secret to the success of a design team, what would it be?

It is indeed difficult to name only one, but it would probably be the unwillingness to compromise and thus always staying true to one’s line.

Q: In your opinion, how fast will the transportation industry evolve in the upcoming years? What is the next big technological boom that we can expect?

In the next few years, a lot will definitely change in the transport industry, and above all, it will have to change. More emission-free transport alternatives must be created to protect our environment and relieve the cities. As we were able to experience last year, especially e-bikes will play a big role here, that you can already see now. Even larger automotive companies are jumping on the bandwagon. But also electric cars and self-driving cars will play a big role here and will be decisive for the next technical boom in the future. However, not only on the ground but also in the air we will see a lot in the future. Maybe even an electric air taxi?

View Design Innovation of the Year 2021 here.