Jun 3, 2016 | By Alec

Mountain biking is fantastic, but exposes bikes and riders to a lot of wear and tear. Especially if you’re using a standard bike that doesn’t fit your size perfectly, you and your mountain bike could be in for a nasty surprise. Fortunately, UK-based startup Robot Bike has found an solution. Drawing inspiration from aerospace 3D printing applications, they are now offering completely bespoke R160 mountain bikes that incorporate carbon fiber tubes and 3D printed titanium lugs that can be completely customized to fit you. The company even goes as far as arguing that these are the “best mountain bike frames possible.”

Of course, while custom mountain bikes do exist, they are typically reserved for professional athletes. Additionally, all carbon fiber mountain bike frames have been produced with mold casting, and can cost thousands. Fortunately, the Robot Bike team might have found a cheaper and more accurate solution. Founded in 2013 by veteran mountain bikers Ben Farmer, Ed Haythornthwaite, Andy Hawkins and Ben Robarts-Arnold, they have teamed up with renowned suspension designers Dave Weagle to offer a completely bespoke digital manufacturing alternative.

While the R160 isn’t cheap either, Robot Bike has essentially set up a digital production line for full-suspension R160 mountain bikes that are lightweight and completely customized to match your shape and riding preferences. “We use cutting edge manufacturing technologies because we know how and when to best apply them. Our design & engineering is grounded in years of experience in the cutting edge world of aerospace, F1 and automotive, and our DW6 suspension design has been developed and tailored in partnership with Dave Weagle to provide the ultimate suspension,” they say.

With an ‘aggressive’ geometry and 27.5” wheels, the company says that the R160 has been purposefully designed for steep and technical terrain, but can also be perfectly used for all-day rides and climbs. “The unique DW6 suspension system plays a key part in this versatility. The progressive leverage ratio provides the suppleness you need for grip at the start of the travel, support in the middle, and a bottomless feeling at the end for when you’re really pushing things, perfect no matter what situation you find yourself in,” says the company. “The R160 is as efficient as they come.”

The R160 also features a 12x142mm rear axle and a top quality threaded bottom bracket. “Talking of threads, apart from the bottom bracket ones you won’t find a single thread anywhere else on the titanium parts of the frame. We’ve seen too many frames written off by damaged threads, so all of ours are easily replaceable should that ever be required,” says the company.

But most importantly, each and every bike has been custom-made for the rider. As company founder Ed Haythornthwaite explained, this service grew out of a frustration with the relatively limited selection of size options, despite the fact that top-level materials are being used. “If you are trying to produce the very best frame it makes no sense to then only offer it in a small number of sizes when the people you are selling it to come in all shapes and sizes. Think of Robot Bike Co. as the Savile Row of the bike world,” he said.

To enable that custom service, clients provide the British startup with their measurements and details about the type of riding they intend to do. To make things easier, a database with hundreds of geometric possibilities has already been set up, with an algorithm selecting the perfect fit for you. While it would normally take months to complete tooling, retooling and testing, the Robot Bike’s method can be completed in just an hour or so by completely removing molds from the equation.

The precise angles of the final lugs determine the custom geometry of each and every bike. The lug designs themselves have been optimized by simulation specialists Altair. The selected lugs are subsequently 3D printed in aerospace grade Ti6Al4V titanium using Selective Laser Melting technology by 3D printing specialists HiETA – a UK company that offers commercial laser metal 3D printing services.

The 3D printers themselves have been developed by local partners Renishaw, and the Robot Bike team argues that their hardware ensures an optimal mechanical performance for all parts. “Our ‘double lap pi joint’ design is made possible by this manufacturing process, along with the ability to make every lug set bespoke to order,” they say. The same technology is also currently being used by Airbus, Boeing, GE and Rolls-Royce for critical aerospace parts.

The final bespoke lugs are not only very lightweight, but also use a minimal number of components without compromising performance. Carbon fiber tubes are cut to size to fit the lugs, with the final carbon/titanium frame weighing just around 29 lb (13 kg), depending on the special preferences. “Additive manufacturing literally opened up a whole new playing field for us. Without this advancement in technology we simply wouldn’t have been able to create such a high performance custom frame,” said Haythornthwaite. “Aside from allowing us to create custom frames the AM process also gives us a distinct advantage when it comes to product development and reacting to new trends and standards, as we aren’t constrained by expensive tooling.”

The final designs should leave any mountain biking enthusiast drooling. But of course aerospace-quality bike frames don’t come cheap. The R160 frame (not including wheels or other parts) will cost a massive £4,395 (about US$6,364) – still cheaper than conventionally made custom bikes. 



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Robert J House wrote at 8/4/2016 10:34:12 AM:

3 D printing will soon be 4 D from my understandings and research of the available programming about to hit the mainstream. My wonder is why are we not 3 D cutting diamonds yet if we are at aeronautical standards now?

MJK wrote at 6/10/2016 7:20:20 AM:

" with the final carbon/titanium frame weighing just around 29 lb (13 kg)"... That´s extremly heavy for a frame. I don´t think it´s the frame alone, seems to be the complete bike. Frame weigth would be intresting.

Richard wrote at 6/3/2016 9:02:00 AM:

Since when was "HiETA – the only UK company to offer commercial laser metal 3D printing services." ? The are a number of UK based AM metals providers such as 3TRPD, CRDM, Materialssolutions. Check your facts.....

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