UK metal-based additive machine manufacturer Renishaw partnered with British design firm Empire Cycles to showcase the potential of their 3D printing and materials technology. The result is a frame they say is both strong and light, coming in 33% lighter than the original prototype. Claimed weight for the front triangle here is 1440g (3.17lb).
The secret to it is both the materials and the “topological optimization”. According to the tech brief, using Renishaw’s metal additive process with titanium results in a finished material that is denser than if the part had been cast, so it’s stronger. And the topological optimization simply means they could precisely design the exact amount and position of material as the parts were being printed, so there’s no excess material to add weight.
The design is based on Empire’s MX-6 mountain bike, but with tube shapes optimized in partnership with Renishaw to take full advantage of their tech…
The frame segments were printed individually, then sleeved and bonded together. Once assembled, it went through the standard EN testing to prove it could handle real world abuse. Example: The seat post bracket was tested to 6x the normal standard without failure.
What’s the point? This project was clearly to showcase both companies’ capabilities. The larger view is to show the potential for the process and materials, which can lead to quicker creation of rideable prototypes; the ability to create ultralight but strong parts; and easily produce ultra complex shapes. And all that can be done without the cost of new tooling.