Charge Bikes Uses 3D Printed Titanium Bike Parts, Shows Us The Future

What with home 3D printers now trickling down to prices that mean every kid will have one in a few years, why not find a way to do it with high tech materials?

Charge Bikes worked with European Aeronautic Defense & Space Center to use “printed” layers of fine powder that are then melted into a solid form. Yes, this video was included under the page break on the post about the Freezer titanium cyclocross bike that gets a limited edition run with these dropouts (and will cost about £400 more than a standard frame thanks to the newness of this technology), but we wanted to put it up again on its own to draw a little more attention to it.

The implications of this are pretty big. There’s no doubt the cost of metal parts printing will drop significantly over the next five to ten years as this catches on. Many bike and component brands already have plastic 3D printers in house for R&D, most using them to fabricate dummy parts to test fit, movement and prove concepts before moving into more complicated and expensive machining of test parts. Imagine if they could just print metal pieces in house to test right away? Imagine being able to build internal reinforcements on hollow sections or intricate cable/wire guides and ramps? What about built in hydraulic ports for brakes? Just ideas for now, but who knows where else it could lead.

Couple of closeup dropout photos after the break…

charge bikes freezer titanium 3D printed dropouts

charge bikes freezer titanium 3D printed dropouts

Photos from Road.cc, who visited EADS and helped with the video above. Check out their post for lots of detail pics.

Comments

dave - 08/16/12 - 7:28am

cool stuff, but can it really be as strong as a part machined from plate?

I thought the extrusion process is important for aligning the grains.

anyway, cool vid.

Detlef - 08/16/12 - 7:58am

@Dave: After melding the Powder together the metal cools down very very fast. In fact of this the grain becomes very small, so that the metal part is relative strong. Not as strong as an forged part but near enough ;)

And I loled @ “newness of technology” Crazy Germans use this technology to produce their stuff private:

http://www.light-bikes.de/website/new/2012/02/14/selbstbau-komponenten-in-perfektion

Plus today there are some companies which offer the laser sintering process for your own designs payed for every printed cm³

Rob - 08/16/12 - 9:44am

Good answer to the above….

http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/14635/what-will-the-strength-of-a-sintered-steel-piece-be-compared-with-a-cast-piece

For something like a drop-out it’s over kill. But a step in an interesting direction.

manuel - 08/16/12 - 10:01am

I realyl like 3D printed parts!
3D printed cranks an freewheel parts for dt swiss hubs (page 3):
http://www.light-bikes.de/forum/showthread.php?t=19755

Xris - 08/16/12 - 10:17am

By trade I am a machinist and have used a very wide variety of tooling. Lazer cutters, wire EDM, Waterjet, etc. I had zero idea something like this existed. Super cool stuff.

As for strength, the heating process that the parts went through after being pulled out of the machine is what gives the part it’s strength. Like heat treating the titanium to relieve the stress and align the molecules.

David - 08/16/12 - 11:09am

Metal sintering is used extensively in automotive markets these days on complex low production parts. Great to see it making way to bikes…..

saverio - 08/16/12 - 11:22am

wow!!!!!!

Rob - 08/16/12 - 11:25am

I’m sure that there must be a stack of published data out there on the mechanical performance of these materials/structures. I just can’t find any at the moment….

Eric - 08/16/12 - 11:48am

The 3D printers may come down in price eventually, but thre sintering ovens used for titanium and other metals post 3D printting process are still not cheap, all part of the powder metallurgy industry.

Kovas - 08/16/12 - 12:05pm

This is so cool.

I wanted to learn how to weld titanium (tubes)… but now I’m thinking that some Solidworks and CAD training may be the better way to go.

Ti is tits.

alloycowboy - 08/16/12 - 12:12pm

That is some really impressive technology and design to a tough design problem. Anyone that has ever designed a bicycle will tell you the hardest part to design is the dropouts because their are so many design restrictions on them from the axle/quick release, disc brake tabs, rear deraileur and some times suspension piviots.

Psi Squared - 08/16/12 - 12:30pm

A search of Google Scholar ought to show some results for “laser additive manufacturing”, “selective laser sintering”. The biggest strength concern in this process is limiting the porosity of the final part. Limiting porosity is a function of adequately melting each layer.

Walter - 08/16/12 - 3:27pm

And now we wait for Shimano and Campagnolo crying wolf about CAD-files of derailleurs on the Pirate Bay.

Felix Espana - 08/16/12 - 6:20pm

I did research on 3-D Titanium structures manufactured using a FDM Titan machine. Essentially is the same idea, with the exception that we don’t have a Ti powder bed. Instead we have the laser beam and the Ti powder (or whatever powder we want) meet and melt at the spot where we want to deposit material (build the part). My research was mainly on Hip implants (Biomedical Applications) and Heat Transfer concepts (composites, coatings, etc for better heat conduction). I remember playing with the machine creating various objects, but like everything Ti powder is expensive, so I couldn’t start making bike parts!! Great idea, but I wonder about the cost effectiveness of this approach? The strenght is there because the grains become refined (and oriented depending on how you deposited the material) because of the fast cooling that is taking place.

mattgvt - 08/17/12 - 9:38am

Imagine when they build one large enough to print an entire bike with infinitely varying butting throughout each tube to tune ride characteristics. Suddenly carbon sounds boring…

mattgvt - 08/17/12 - 9:39am

And in shapes never before thought possible.

Psi Squared - 08/17/12 - 9:57am

What would infinitely varying butting be? Given the tubing would have finite dimensions, that would pretty much rule out anything infinite.

For titanium each layer in the LAM process is on the order of 30-50 microns thick (0.03-0.05mm or 0.001-0.002 inches). That’s already pretty smooth between layers. It’s also likely that the product will be pretty smooth between laser passes since each pass melting metal and each pass is likely partially overlapping the previous pass. With all that in mind, the process already will make a satisfactorily smooth curve. Look at the dropouts above. They’re pretty damned smooth in cross-section, be it through any axis. So a tube with complex butting is already achievable. Heck, did you see the guy’s pen in the video?

The hold-up on an entire frame will be the cost as an entire frame will take some time to build up, and far fewer frames can be built at a time compared to things like dropouts. Sure that time will likely come win the cost of frame made via LAM is reasonable, but that time is still a fair distance off.

Mike - 08/17/12 - 11:34am

Is it just me or is that a pretty boring drop out design for this process. Why not actually use loop stays and weld on a plate dropout, why bother with a high tech system to make a design that can be made in a conventional way?

Also, if you are going to print your part from a CAD file, try to make the derailleur hanger fit.

Sam - 08/17/12 - 8:35pm

Absolutely awesome. So many implications. The cost has got to be very high compared to its benefits so I can never see this process becoming mainstream for bike frame production – atleast in my lifetime. Carbon frames are a prime example. Although they’re affordable to the mass market now, most everyday bikers are still riding aluminum and steel bikes.

I could see this being utilized on the production of high-end gears and components however because they’re much smaller in size and require greater precision. I could also see more independent component manufactures coming to market with high end gears with this technique. They don’t have to purchase any large expensive factories. All they need are talented engineers and this 3D printer in their workshop.

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