Specialized thinks it has a game-changing 3D-printed foam replacement.
Specialized is known for investing in R&D, resulting in an impressive steady stream of innovative products. Now, the company thinks it may have the next revolution in touchpoints. It’s all thanks to a 3D-printed liquid polymer called Mirror Technology, and it could be a replacement for foam in saddles and bartape.
The Digital Light Synthesis process allows for 3D-printed density variations throughout a saddle that Specialized says would take thousands of different foams to recreate. And the company has complete control over the lattice structure for each prototype it creates. It is even able to go from prototype to working sample in a single day. Based in Morgan Hill, California, Specialized is in close quarters with some of the most innovative Silicon Valley technology companies and startups in the world. For this project, the bike company, no stranger to collaborations with companies like McClaren, is utilizing this proximity and working with a company called Carbon which created Digital Light Synthesis—the process behind Mirror Technology
The Digital Light Synthesis process allows for 3D-printed density variations throughout a saddle that Specialized says would take thousands of different foams to recreate. And the company has complete control over the lattice structure for each prototype it creates. It is even able to go from prototype to working sample in a single day.
Creating numerous Mirror technology prototypes—over 70 in the last year—Specialized has been able to fine tune comfort from its saddles. The potential exists to reduce road vibration, increase pelvic stability and relieve soft tissue pressure.
Specialized is already putting the tech to the test in the form of a Power Saddle. It is being tested by Specialized’s professional athletes including the Bora—Hansgrohe and Decueninck—Quick-Step teams. A version will be available for sale in early 2020.
Is this just smoke and mirrors, or is it potentially game-changing? Well, without actually trying the saddle, it’s hard to say. But, in theory, the potential of this technology is quite high. Specialized for one thinks it’s as big of a deal to touchpoints as carbon has been to frames and components. There’s the potential to custom print saddles to perfectly suit every cyclist. Just like a custom built frame with fine-tuned geometry, this could mean more comfort for more cyclists in a component that is notoriously difficult to fit correctly. If Specialized can bring that to reality, it would be an important innovation.
But beyond the potential for completely bespoke material layup, the inherent properties the Digital Light Synthesis Technology provides—relieving pressure and increasing blood flow and pelvic stability—could be very important even for a general production saddle. And we are always keen to try a new saddle if it can provide even an ounce of additional comfort.
Images by Michal Cerveny