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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