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World first for Renishaw and Empire Bicycles with "printed" mountainbike

By Ben_Falconer  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

  • The finished "printed" Empire bike

  • Renishaw and Empire Bicycles have joined forces to build a new mountainbike

  • The "printed" parts are bonded together

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A BESPOKE bicycle maker and a global precision engineering giant have combined to create an all-British mountainbike - on a printer.

Renishaw in Wotton-under-Edge and a bike manufacturer based on a Lancashire trading estate are believed to have come up with a world first in the shape of a metal bicycle frame manufactured on a 3D printer.

Normally they are used to create prototypes in plastic but Renishaw is the UK’s only manufacturer of a metal-based additive manufacturing machine which “prints” metal parts.

So when Empire Cycles’ managing director Chris Williams saw the firm’s capabilities at a trade show, he asked if it could make him a titanium frame.

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To be launched at next week’s London Bike Show, it is some 33% lighter than the original MX-6 mountain bike (pictured) and incredibly strong.

“I had seen a lot of Renishaw’s fantastic stuff, so I rang them up,” said Chris. “They said they would have a think about my idea and get back to me, and I thought that would be it.

“They are so big and here is little old me. But three weeks later they rang back and said ‘let’s have a go’.”

The frame has been additively manufactured in titanium alloy in sections then bonded together.

It could revolutionise the bicycle industry as most bike makers rely on Far Eastern factories to weld or bond their frames before sending them to Europe.

“If you could have a line producing frames 24/7 it would really cut costs,” said Chris.

“Renishaw have the technology but they’ve done it in a really relaxed way - we’ve talked on the phone and drawn things ‘on the back of fag packets’, and come up with this.”

No price has yet been set but Chris hopes it would be comparable with a top end carbon frame - a material which is more labour intensive than using a 3D printer.

“This is a fantastic world-first achieved by a close collaboration between a British bike designer and the only British manufacturer of a machine that 'prints' metal parts,” said Renishaw spokesman Chris Pockett. “Importantly it illustrates both the capabilities of the Renishaw machine and our commitment to work closely with manufacturers to ensure that their product designs are optimised to take full advantage of the extensive benefits offered by the 3D printing process.”

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