Aug.16, 2012

UK bike brand Charge Bikes has revealed that they are working with the European Aeronautic Defence and Space centre (EADS) in Bristol, UK developing a very limited run of 50 bikes with unique 3D printed titanium dropouts.

Traditional methods such as forging and CNC has limitations and drawbacks. It is difficult to produce complex shapes and CNC has very high waste rate while forging has very high tooling costs.

Using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology the design is sliced into fine layers and melted in a bed of powder to form a solid form. This approach means that complex parts can be made as a single piece easily.

To produce titanium dropouts, EADS uses a DMLS machine to melt and print powdered titanium into super detailed dropout. Each layer is 0.03mm thick and it takes about 40 hours to produce a batch of 50 dropouts.

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This is not a quick process, but it is still the best method to make titanium parts. Specialist ALM Engineer Andy Hawkins at EADS says,

Titanium is expensive, so anything that reduces wastage is a bonus. It's also poor at conducting heat, which means that the laser is able to very effectively and accurately melt the layers. Aluminium, which melts at a much lower temperature, requires twice the laser power because it's such an efficient conductor. Titanium, especially as a 6Al/4V alloy (6% aluminium and 4% vanadium) is extremely hard, and that makes it costly and time-consuming to machine.


The additive layer process is so well suited to making small and complex titanium parts that it's already cost effective for some applications. "We recently ran a batch of parts for an aerospace project," Andy says. "By nesting them together on the plate we managed to produce 50 at once, all slightly different. In the end we couldn't have produced them as cheaply or as quickly any other way."

Once the parts are finished they will be shipped to Taipei where they'll be welded into a cyclocross frame.

This technology is still very much in its infancy, this means it is expensive. There is no exactly figure how much it costs to produce the dropouts, but according to the company, the 50 limited edition Freezer models costs at least £400 more than the conventional design.

Charge bike is the first company in the industry producing parts using 3D printing technology. According, Cannondale have also one DMLS machine in the office for knocking out sample designs that you can hold in your hand.

New technology opens up so much potential and this process will certainly revolutionise how bikes are made. The cost of 3D printer has come down in the last years, and when 3D printer becomes cheaper and faster it will be possible to print the entire metal frame in one piece. Every bike can be uniquely customized for individuals, with your own measurement, favorite colors and prints.




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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