There's already a long list 3D printed frame parts and bike accessories created in metal, carbon fiber and plastic materials, but this collaboration marks the first time AM has taken on a production version of an entirely metal 3D printed mountain bike frame.
Leading lights in the metal additive manufacturing sector, Renishaw, in partnership with the British design firm Empire Cycles, built the frame to showcase 3D printing processes and advanced materials technologies, and they say their frame is 33% lighter than the original prototype.
Empire Cycles says the frame segments were printed individually before being sleeved and bonded together. The completed frame then underwent EN testing to determine its capabilities and durability. The company says the seat post bracket alone was tested and found to handle six times the normal standard without failure.
Both companies say the project was undertaken to showcase the potential for the process and materials, and that the outcome was quicker creation of ride-able prototypes and the ability to create ultralight – but high-strength – parts using ultra complex shapes and without the cost of new tooling.
Using what the firms call "topological optimization," Renishaw's metal additive technique has produced (in titanium) a finished product with denser parts than can be produced with traditional casting methods – and they say it's stronger as well.
In a nutshell, "topological optimization" can be described as a process aimed at making parts precisely designed to take advantage of 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 the Empire MX-6 mountain bike which was re-designed with tube shapes optimized by Renishaw to take complete advantage of 3D AM technology.
While there was no pricing available immediately for the titanium AM version, the current MX-6 retails for nearly $7,000.