Aerospace Titanium 3D Printing to Change Mountain Bikes as We Know Them
Biking in the mountains can be a thrilling and amazing experience. However, the rough conditions do expose mountain bikers to more wear and tear than one would like. A standard bike that somehow did not fit your shape correctly could get you into a world of trouble in the harsh mountain conditions. Robot Bike, a UK based startup has come up with an amazing solution to end all the bike fitting woes. They are offering some of the most impressive bespoke mountain bikes, R160 to be precise, that come with 3D printed titanium lugs and carbon fiber tubes that can be customized to fit your size. Their inspiration was from 3D printing and rapid prototyping applications in the aerospace industry. These just might be the most accurate mountain bike frames in the world.
Even though custom mountain bikes are available for order, they are usually made for athletes who professionally undertake these rough terrains. Not only that, all of their carbon fiber bikes have been created by mold casting, which can hike the price to thousands of dollars. This technology by Robot Bike will allow hobbyists and enthusiasts to have a more customized experience in their biking. Their solution is not only cheaper, but more accurate too.
Robot Bike was founded by Ben Farmer, Andy Hawkins, Ben Robarts-Arnold and Ed Haythornthwaite; all veteran mountain bikers. They have collaborated with Dave Weagle, who is a famous suspension designer to offer the customized alternative digital method of manufacturing. The R160 as a mountain bike model does not come for cheap on its own. Robot Bike has taken the sophistication of these bikes a step further by setting up a fully digitized production line for lightweight, completely customized, full suspension R160 mountain bikes that matches ones riding preference and shape. The company opines that R160 has been designed for technical and steep terrain with its 27.5 inch wheels and rather aggressive geometric build. However, these can also be used for all day climbs and rides. According to the company, the DW6 system of suspension plays a crucial role in the versatility of these bikes. By dint of its progressive leverage ratio, you get the necessary flexibility in the beginning of the route, the support in the middle of it and even when you are really climbing steeper slopes.
R160 also boasts 12x142mm of rear axle and a threaded bottom bracket of supreme quality. You won’t find any other threads elsewhere on the titanium portion of the frame other than the ones at the bottom bracket. This will help prevent damage to the cycle frame that is otherwise caused by damaged threads. These also make the threads easy to replace when required. The most important feature remains the fact that each and every R160 produced by Robot Bike has been custom fitted for the rider. Ed Haythornthwaite explains that this service had its roots in the frustration when there was only a limited choice of size options, even though top quality materials were being used to build bikes. The best frames are not worth producing if they are only offered in a limited number of sizes, whereas customer requirements are infinite. For this flexibility in customization, the founder also considers the company the Savile Row of the world of mountain bikes.
In order to make this custom service available to clients, the British company takes measurements and necessary details of the clients to get an idea about what kind of riding they are looking to do. Things have been made easier as there is already a database full of hundreds of geometric possibilities, from which an algorithm selects the clients’ perfect fit. This eliminates months of testing, tooling and retooling as opposed to Robot Bike’s innovative method, which takes just about an hour to be completely done.
In order to determine the customized geometry for every bike made, the precision of the angles in the final lugs is the most important. Simulations specialist company Altair has designed the specialized lugs through simulation and optimization. Aerospace grade titanium is used in order to 3D print the selected lugs with Selective Laser Melting. This portion is completed under HiETA, which is a company that provides 3D printing services in commercial laser metal. Local partners of the company Renishaw have developed the 3D printers that are to print out the frames.
The final results would make any mountain biking enthusiast awed, yet these customized, aerospace grade bikes do not come for a cheap price. The R160 frame, excluding the wheel and other parts, cost a whopping 4395 pounds. Yet, this is still comparatively cheaper than traditional custom made bikes that only athletes could use.
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