Titanium is the ideal material for bicycles as the metal has many positive aspects such as high tensile strength, elongation and fatigue strength. These qualities make this metal an absolute favorite among cyclists. For sure this is not the first time that 3D printing is being used in the bicycles industry. Flying Machine, an Australian company had recently come up with a bicycle that was constructed with 3D printed titanium lugs. Apart from this there is another Nylon 3D printed Airbike but there has not been anything like an entire bike made with the help of a 3D printer.
2 Bristish companies – Renishaw, an additive manufacturing firm and Empire Cycles , a cycle manufacturing company, teamed up to develop the world’s first 3D printed titanium bike frame named as MX-6 R. It is actually modeled after Empire’s MX- 6 Evo mountain bike but there are a few key differences.
Making of the Bike:
The making of this bike involved a lot of editing in CAD so that the extra weight could be removed and also the shape of the bike could be optimized. The parts that were 3D printed were more tubular in shape with lattice like joints so that the bike could have a more organic looking form. Then these pieces were 3D printed using selective laser sintering process. The frame of the bike is hollow with internal strengthening features. The bike was designed using the principal of “topological optimization” which means that the company has used software to distribute material in the smartest possible way.
The bike was launched in February 2014 at the London Bike Show. The model that was displayed on the show was not rideable but it did represent the first bicycle make entirely of titanium. Chris Williams, bike engineer at Empire says, “What I’ve done here is rather than building a small component that fits into the build area many times, I’ve taken large components and broken into smaller pieces to fit into the build area. I think we’ll see more of this in the future. This is the very forefront of it, because I started this project six months ago, and the other week Renishaw told me that if I approach than six months earlier, they would have had to decline the project. It’s such cutting edge technology.”
Word of caution!
This bike does sound quite impressive but Rygulski who is a competitive cyclist and longtime bike commuter, cautions buyers of certain issues that could be there in the bike. He says, “From a practical standpoint this may be too nice to be an everyday commuter bike. After all, commuter bikes are often parked outside chained to a fence or a bike rack. They are often not down; scratched, rained on etc. this bike would most likely be in the $2000 price range. I would not want to take my $2000 bike and leave it outside for eight hours while in the office. Also, commuter bikes are subject to theft. If, however, I could ride this bike and park it, let’s say, in my office the only thing that would stand in between me and its purchase would be getting my wife to agree to spend the money!”
The bike is not yet available in the markets as researchers at the Swansea University are still testing the performance of the bike both in the lab and on the mountains.
Image Credit: empire-cycles.com