Laser Sintering Moves Into the Bike Market
Kyle Maxey posted on January 31, 2014 |
DMLS may have found another niche as the world’s first 3D printed bike frame debuts in the UK.

As metal additive manufacturing techniques continue to increase the fidelity of the parts they produce, more industries are beginning to experiment with the technology.  Lending proof to the notion that laser sintering isn’t just for the aerospace and oil industries, Empire Cycles, in conjunction with UK engineering and prototyping firm Renishaw, have debuted the world's first 3D printed bike frame.

While manufacturers have printed minor bike components before, this new project is the first to create a complete mountain bike frame. Based on Empire Cycle’s MX6 design, Renishaw printed the frame in a number of segments and bonded them together to assemble the bike’s geometry.

Printed in a lightweight, strong and durable titanium alloy, the bike also underwent a “topological optimization” process which helped Empire refine the geometry of their frame and decrease material use.

By using additive manufacturing the MX6 saw a marked decrease in weight. In fact, while the original bike frame weighed 2.1 kg, its 3D printed cousin was slimmed down to 1.4kg - a 33% reduction.  What’s more, because Empire’s frame was 3D printed analysis showed it to be denser and stronger than a traditionally cast frame.

To round out their examination of the frame, and prove that it’s truly trail ready, Renishaw employed strict European Standards testing.

“The project’s aim is to produce a fully functioning bicycle, so the seat post bracket was tested using the mountain bike standard EN 14766; it withstood 50,000 cycles of 1,200 N. Testing continued to 6 times the standard without failure.”

In the near future testing will continue on other parts of the bike including live, mountainside testing in partnership with Swansea University.

If everything checks out, Empire Cycle’s collaboration with Renishaw might just lead to greater integration of AM technology with bike manufacturing. A union which could help spur on the creation of more robust frame designs, pushing the limits of what bikes and their riders can achieve. 

Images Courtesy of Renishaw

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