Jun 20, 2016 | By Benedict

Three British designers have teamed up to build a sub-1kg titanium 3D printed bike frame. 3D printing company Mirada Pro, bicycle tubing specialist Reynolds Technology, and framebuilder Ted James all contributed their expertise to the frame, whose weight was reduced using topology optimization software.

Thought that additive manufacturing in sport was beginning to tire? Start backpedalling now, because three British design pioneers are gearing up to unveil one of the most forward-thinking bicycle components in recent years: a 3D printed titanium frame weighing just 999g. The specialists behind the frame are Mirada Pro, a Birmingham-based metal 3D printing specialist currently focusing its attentions on the cycling world; Reynolds Technology, a steel tubing business—also from Birmingham—which has been serving cyclists for over 120 years; and Ted James, a bike and BMX framebuilder based in Stroud, Gloucestershire. Together, the three parties have pooled their respective areas of expertise to create a topologically optimized frame that could accelerate the adoption of 3D printing in cycling.

Taken from design to manufacture in just eight weeks, the 3D printed frame truly is a sight to behold. But while the British designers aren’t exactly reinventing the wheel—3D printed bicycles have been popping up in all shapes and sizes recently—their collaborative effort promises to be one of the most serious contributions to the expanding arena (or should we say velodrome?) of additively manufactured cycles. The frame features customized titanium 3/2.5 tubing from Reynolds and 3D printed lugs, which make up the head tube, bottom bracket, dropouts and top/seat tube intersection, designed by Mirada Pro. The metal components were expertly welded by James, producing a frame with a torsional stiffness superior to that of an alloy frame.

A factor which contributed heavily to the frame’s sub-1kg weight was the use of topology optimization software. By inputting required load figures, Mirada Pro was able to configure its CAD software to work out which parts of the frame could use less material, producing a design with adequate strength while using the minimum amount of 6/4 titanium 3D printing powder. This reduction in material use not only made the frame lighter, but saved the designers money too, meaning that the one-off 3D printed frame could feasibly be taken into production in the future.

“The shapes have been dictated by one of our computer programs,” Mirada Pro product engineer Iain McEwan told Cyclist. We took the standard loads a frame needs to endure to pass an EN safety test, inputted that into the program and told it to produce shapes that could support those loads but using a minimum amount of material. In other words, if you had a solid block of titanium for the head tube, say, you could remove all this material and still be left with a piece that could support the forces involved.”

The 3D printed frame is yet to be turned into a complete bike and ridden on, but it has been sent off to an independent test lab where it will be put through its paces. Should the results show that the frame is fit for riding, the three designers could someday produce a 3D printed frame suitable for mass production. In the meantime, check out these 3D printed cycles from 3BEE, MX3D, and Bamboo Bicycle Club.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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