Jun 8, 2015 | By Simon

When it comes to creating custom parts for vehicles using additive manufacturing processes - particularly Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) - the majority of use cases are for aerospace or custom race car designs...and for good reason.  

Among other advantages of using 3D printing to create custom parts for high-performance vehicles include the ability to create parts that can be iterated on quickly and easily in an effort to create the most optimal part designs, the ability to create ultra-lightweight designs due to the ability to minimize material waste, as well as the ability to produce parts at a much lower cost than traditional manufacturing techniques.

However, while most of these 3D printed metal parts are being used in everything from helicopters and commercial aircraft interiors to endurance race car parts, they are also equally effective in more simple designs, too - such as a bicycle.  

On Sunday night, UK cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins annihilated the UCI Hour record - which measures the furthest distance a rider can cycle within an hour - at the Lee Valley Velodrome in London. Just a few weeks ago, fellow UK cyclist Alex Dowsett set a record of 52.937 kilometers and Wiggins broke it with an all-new handlebar design that was created thanks to 3D printing. His final mark is 54.526 kilometers, beating Dowsett's record by nearly two kilometers.

Made from a titanium, the handlebars were created using additive manufacturing techniques in-part because they were able to be intricately modified multiple times leading up the the record attempt today.  

While the handlebars are made from titanium, the bicycle itself is made from carbon fiber and was developed by the reputable bicycle manufacturer Pinarello in partnership with the University of Sheffield.  The modified bicycle that Wiggins will be using is a Pinarello Bolide HR, which is the track version of a similar time trial bike that has achieved many victories over the years including a World Championship win last year alone.  If the slight modifications to the handlebars were not necessary leading up to the record attempt, it would have made sense to create the handlebars out of carbon fiber.  

“The key is to manage the airflow around the bike so the different components of the bike disrupt that flow as little as possible,” said James Hunt, a research associate at the University of Sheffield’s Mercury Centre, who worked with Pinarello to develop the 3D printed handlebars.

“Because the handlebars hit the airflow first it’s absolutely critical to perfect that part of the design – 3D printing allows us to make shapes that optimise this aspect that would be very hard to achieve using other manufacturing techniques.”

To create the 3D printed handlebars, the design engineers used an Arcam Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing machine.  The machine allowed for them to create consistent results that were both light enough for a world record attempt while strong enough to meet the rigorous demands of a world-class cyclist.  

“Bolide HR is the most aerodynamic bike in the world,” says Dimitris Katsanis, chief designer of the Pinarello Lab.

“When it came to the handlebars, we needed them to be as good in terms of aerodynamics, but we also needed them to be a perfect fit for the rider. We’ve already seen our design working well in trials and Sir Bradley is cycling faster than ever.”


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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