World's first 3D-printed titanium bike is super light

Empire Cycles in the UK has partnered with additive manufacturer Renishaw to create the world's first fully 3D-printed titanium bicycle frame.

Empire Cycles in the UK has partnered with additive manufacturer Renishaw to create the world's first fully 3D-printed titanium bicycle frame.

(Credit: Empire Cycles)

With the right equipment, you don't have to be restricted to plastics for 3D printing. As a proof-of-concept for its 3D printing technology, UK-based manufacturing company Renishaw has teamed up with bicycle company Empire Cycles and created a fully 3D-printed bicycle frame out of titanium.

(Credit: Empire Cycles)

Granted, this isn't the first time we've seen 3D printing in bicycles. A bit closer to home, Aussie company Flying Machine has a bicycle that is constructed with 3D-printed titanium lugs, and there's the nylon Airbike — but nothing on this scale.

The bicycle itself is modelled after Empire's machined-aluminium MX-6 mountain bike, with a few key differences. In order to 3D-print the parts, the design had to be refined in CAD to remove unnecessary weight and optimise the shape using a process called "topological optimisation".

This created forms that were more tubular in shape than the aluminium bike, with lattice-like joints for a more organic-looking form factor.

Then the pieces were 3D-printed using selective laser sintering. According to Renishaw, the resultant material is denser than cast metal, and therefore stronger — but the resultant frame is 33 per cent lighter than the original prototype, coming in at just 1.44 kilograms.

"We've tested the seat tower in a test lab, and it's extremely strong," Empire's Chris Williams told Stuff. "It quadrupled the European standard requirement for the component."

(Credit: Empire Cycles)

The companies haven't said whether or not they'll be planning to bring the prototype to full production, but it looks likely: Empire is already working on design tweaks for an upgraded version.

The bike will be on display at the London Bike Show from 13-16 February.

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About the author

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

 

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