Science

The CSIRO 3D-Printed A Gorgeous Titanium Bike

Getting about on a bike has never been more popular in Australia, with a new resurgence of cyclists taking to two wheels for their morning commute or just for a bit of a lark. One designer from Melbourne, however, wanted something special in his two-wheeler, so he spent a year designing a titanium bike that was 3D printed by the CSIRO.

The bike is a 3D printed titanium frame with a carbon belt drive according to its designer, Sam Froud.

The bike was fully designed using CAD software and sent off to the only titanium 3D printer in the Southern Hemisphere, owned by the boffins at the CSIRO.

Sam said he’d rather get it done with the CSIRO than have the metalwork fabricated overseas, mostly because the local scientists can have the frame turned around in 10 days rather than a matter of months.

A titanium 3D printer works in a similar way to a normal 3D printer: it breaks a CAD file up into several thousand layers, but instead of using an extruder to build them one by one, it fires a high-powered electron beam at a bed of titanium powder to melt it into shape. Each layer is built using the same process of firing the laser at the titanium powder.

On top of printing the frame, the CSIRO have a special kind of rapid prototyping process which allowed Sam to see how the pieces would work before they were committed onto the design.

Why titanium? Mostly because it has the strength properties of steel with 40 per cent less weight. When your legs are the only thing propelling you forward, you really don’t want extra weight to push around.

This is actually the second version of the bike, designed in tandem with Sam and a Perth company called Flying Machine.

For the second prototype, Sam used the CSIRO to print a few new parts including metallic components that connect join the tubular frame, and a set of 3D printed lugs.

He’s been working on it in a computer for a whole year without actually having ridden the finished product, and now it has finally come together. If you check out the video above, he certainly seems happy about it.

The CSIRO has told us that Flying Machine is now making more bikes built from the CSIRO’s 3D printed parts for other customers.

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