Founders Sebastian Meinecke (l.) & Ramon Thomas (r.).
Sebastian Meinecke tells us about 3D printing that has always been one of the manufacturing techniques in URWAHN Bikes.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
Sebastian Meinecke: Thanks for asking. My family and I are doing very well. My little daughter is currently exploring the world on a mini 3D printed running bike and is unstoppable. Her infectious passion for cycling brings a smile to my face every day.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded URWAHN Bikes.
Sebastian Meinecke: As a passionate product developer and engineer for sports equipment, I developed a special interest in purist bicycles back in 2011 with growing environmental awareness. Under the name “Sme Bicycles,” I manufactured countless and individual custom bikes. With increasing experience and specialization in product development, I henceforth set myself the task of developing a new type of bike for urban use that would holistically solve numerous problems through the interplay of form, function, comfort, and sustainability in a complexity never seen before. With this vision, I quickly reached the limits of what was possible, which is why conventional structures had to be broken. As one of the first users of the then newly created FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory) in the field of plastic-based 3D printing, the initial vision now became more tangible. Questions such as, “What freedoms and innovation potentials does a holistically or partially 3D printed frame bring with it?” occupied me with increasing depth from then on.
In 2013, the URWAHN bike finally got rolling and was transferred to development as part of my master’s thesis at Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg. Applying Integrated Design Engineering (IDE for short) with the goal of additive manufacturing, I developed the steel frame as the heart of each URWAHN bike in a phase-oriented manner using state-of-the-art design and simulation techniques. With success, because not only the interdisciplinary process model found its way into the infrastructures of URWAHN, but also 3D printing has always been one of the manufacturing techniques with which URWAHN leads the world market in the bicycle segment.
The development of the innovative “URWAHN” frame was supported by funding programs from the European Union starting in 2016. During this time, my colleague and co-founder Ramon Thomas joined us. From then on, the business administration graduate was responsible for the finances. A year later, an investor recognized the innovation potential and enabled us to found URWAHN Bikes in Magdeburg.
How does URWAHN Bikes market its product/services online?
Sebastian Meinecke: We have over 30 partners throughout Germany, which also take over the distribution and service, as well as some bike stores in major international cities, and we are constantly expanding our network in this regard. Furthermore, the customer can also purchase a URWAHN bike directly through us. In our studio on site in Magdeburg, we offer a detailed consultation with a tour of the manufacturer, test ride, and personal bike configuration.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how did you get through it?
Sebastian Meinecke: In the wake of the Corona pandemic, customer behavior, supply chains, and distribution channels have changed fundamentally. The pandemic showed everyone how important agile working methods and a regionally anchored value chain are. In hindsight, we did our homework in this regard much earlier and were better able to adapt to the pandemic.
For example, the mobility of Germans has changed dramatically, and the trend toward cycling has increased significantly. We were able to keep up with the high demand because the regional anchoring of our production means that we are less dependent on supplies from abroad.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Sebastian Meinecke: We already use many marketing tools to automate our processes and, of course, to improve them accordingly. For example, we use the monitoring tool Buffer for our social media posts because here, we can implement our content for multiple platforms, and the publication is played out on the social media channels at a certain time. Among other things, Google’s useful tools, such as Analytics, Drive, etc., massively simplify our everyday life. To inform our customers and partners about all urwahnen news, we rely on CleverReach here.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sebastian Meinecke: Considering how many bicycle manufacturers there are, the number of competitors is quite large. But ultimately, many brands differ in quality, design, and price range. Accordingly, due to the increasing popularity of the bicycle, many more will be added in the coming years. However, we are rethinking the bicycle, turning away from the tried-and-true structures, and taking urban mobility to a new level by combining new technologies with thoughtful design.
3D printing allows us to design and size highly complex components, especially organic frame structures. The production of such thin-walled and highly complex components as our frame parts was made possible in the first place by 3D printing. There would be no soft ride geometry with dampening handling characteristics and no seamless organic design language without this manufacturing process. The flex in the frame is not only visually appealing but creates a completely new and comfortable riding experience. It also allows the cabling and seat clamp to discreetly disappear into the frame. We were able to start production immediately because there was no need for expensive manufacturing tools. This means that rapid changes in component geometries can be implemented from batch to batch, which also makes one-off and special designs possible.
An adaptation from our first Stadtfuchs urban bike model to the Platzhirsch e-bike could be implemented much more easily and quickly using the 3D printing process. In future developments, we will benefit greatly from faster development cycles. From an ecological point of view, the process is also resource-saving compared to conventional methods, as almost no scrap is produced.
We continue to develop every day with great passion and perfection. We drive product improvements, such as weight reduction or strength increase, with great commitment. Also, with regard to the material of our frames, we are working on alternatives that are additionally lighter and more flexible. This year – I can already reveal that much – we will dedicate ourselves to the road sector and provide even more speed in the saddle.
Your final thoughts?
Sebastian Meinecke: We continue to develop every day with great passion and perfection. We drive product improvements such as weight reduction or strength increase with great commitment. We are also working on alternatives to the steel used for our frames that are also lighter and more flexible. This year – I can reveal this much already – we will dedicate ourselves to the road sector and provide even more speed in the saddle.