3D printing is advancing at an astonishing rate in the world of product development. Manufacturing innovators like Chris Williams from Empire Cycles Ltd. have been waiting for the right opportunity to change the world of mountain biking through the design and manufacture of the world’s first 3D printed metallic bicycle frame. To tackle this challenge, Chris reached out to Renishaw, a world leader in engineering technologies, a company that shares his passion for innovative product development and manufacturing. Renishaw agreed to use its emerging manufacturing technology to complete the project. Here’s a hint: it involves lasers.
The laser sintering process is a digitally-driven additive manufacturing process that uses focused laser energy to fuse metallic powders into 3D objects. Already quite familiar with additively manufactured components, Chris was confident that the team at Renishaw could handle the project. To achieve a fully optimized lightweight product at its maximum strength, a concept tool was needed, and Renishaw knew just the product for the job!
SolidThinking Inspire® optimization technology dovetails nicely with additive manufacturing methods. Renishaw used Inspire to generate concepts, maximizing the benefits provided by the freedom of the process. This led to stronger and lighter components that are not easily produced by traditional manufacturing techniques.
Notably, the team selected the standard seat post of the bicycle to perform testing and validate the result. The original CAD data was imported into Inspire, which generated the ideal part shape, and the result is astonishing.
Not only did the new material meet the performance targets, it was also lighter than the original. “We took the seat post bracket from 360 grams down to 200 grams,” Chris commented, “and then we started to look at doing even more.” A 44% weight reduction on a single bike component is incredible, and not only that, additive manufacturing coupled with optimized design contributed to an overall weight reduction of 33%!
The scope of the collaboration between Renishaw and Empire has expanded, and team members are excited at the prospect of further refining the design. The benefits of incorporating solidThinking Inspire with additive manufacturing are evident. The first 3D printed bicycle frame may truly revolutionize the sporting goods industry moving forward.