The team at Urwahn that works with start-up founder Sebastian Meinecke keeps the objective clearly in focus: A bicycle conceived for city use that commands respect due to both an innovative frame and a minimalist design. While developing the “Stadtfuchs,” Urwahn relied on technology and support from Oerlikon subsidiary citim, which works in the area of additive manufacturing of metal components.
Sebastian Meinecke is a sports engineer, product designer and enthusiastic bicyclist. He financed his education by establishing his own production facility, in which he built truly distinctive bicycles. Even then, he was already passionately involved in the areas of design, functionality and integration. Nonetheless, he wanted more: “My dream was to develop a bicycle on my own that elegantly unified design and functionality, was specifically adapted to suit the everyday circumstances of the city and thereby to take urban mobility to a whole new level.”
The idea simply never let him go, and his enthusiasm proved contagious. He persuaded Konrad Jörß and Ramon Thomas, members of the scientific staff at the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg, to join him in the development of a new type of bicycle. Soon they registered a patent and founded the start-up “Urwahn Engineering.” The term “Ur-wahn” is a coinage which, in German, clearly underscores the young founders’ objective: Urban (ur) engineering connected with the passion, even obsession, and the committed determination (wahn) to create new, innovative and perhaps previously unimagined products.
Elegant appearance, outstanding functionality
Motivated and driven by the interdisciplinary model of “Integrated Design Engineering,” Urwahn places humans and their needs at the focus of their bicycle conceptualization. The central innovation that arose in this connection is a completely new type of bicycle frame whose design is a complete departure from the well-known trapezoidal shape. Employing a comprehensive form closure of the front and rear parts, they succeeded in giving the rear wheel an elastic suspension. This helps absorb shocks on rough terrain. By eliminating typical commercially-available spring suspension systems, they reduced weight while retaining a comfortable ride. Further innovative details, such as powerful LED lighting and a GPS tracking system that serves as a theft deterrent are fully integrated in the frame and make the bicycle truly unique. “Our constant focus at every turn was a reduction to the most basic elements, which is the source of the bicycle’s delicate and elegant appearance,” describes Sebastian Meinecke.
“3D printing” for a unique result
The frame of the “Stadtfuchs V2” (“City Fox V2”) was fabricated in Barleben, Germany, by citim GmbH, which is part of the Oerlikon Group. It is made of 1.4404 stainless steel, a very highly corrosion resistant chrome-nickel-molybdenum steel, which was shaped by means of additive manufacturing. Using the process of Selective Laser Melting (SLM), the powdered material was applied and melted layer by layer, which results in the creation of a three-dimensional object. This manufacturing process opens up completely new shaping and forming possibilities and thus the production of component geometries which would be unthinkable with other production processes.
Founded in 1996 as a spin-off (as was Urwahn itself) of the Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, citim specializes in additive manufacturing of metal components. This process eliminates the costly and time-intensive mold-making procedure and thus makes it possible to create prototypes in a short time. The component can be modified quickly and without complications during the development process. “Our collaboration with citim was fantastic,” states Sebastian Meinecke. “We were assisted by the citim team in every respect, both in the selection of the most suitable manufacturing process as well as in the design of the frame and ultimately, even in the perfecting of the frame’s surface finish.”
In the context of the ego.-Gründungstransfer programme, their project received funding from the European Regional Development Fund via the Saxony-Anhalt Investment Bank. Because the subsidies were approved for only a limited time period, the team was under tremendous deadline pressure. “Together with citim, we were nonetheless able to produce a fully functional prototype within a matter of only a few weeks,” explains the product designer.
Internationally successful, anchored in the region
The “Stadtfuchs” has engendered international excitement since its unveiling. “Of course, we’re very pleased about this. Of almost greater importance for us, however, is that we have developed a product than is strongly anchored in the region,” Sebastian Meinecke notes enthusiastically. “We not only use sustainable processes and materials for production, but are also creating jobs at the same time.”
The “Stadtfuchs” will soon be available on the market. The Urwahn team is already brewing up new ideas. We are looking forward to further surprises.
Urwahn Engineering is a start-up launched in 2016 and located in Magdeburg, Germany. Driven by the idea of taking urban mobility to a whole new level, the company designed an innovative bike especially suited to deal with the everyday circumstances faced in the city.