It may look like an alien desk tidy, but you're actually looking at a bicycle frame hot off the 3D printer. The frame — shown below in its fully assembled form — is the brainchild of Renishaw, which makes metal 3D printers, and Empire Cycles.
Based on Empire's MX-6 mountain bike, it's printed in titanium alloy which winds up with an Ultimate Tensile Strength of more than 900MPa.
The design was honed using topological optimisation. That may sound complex, but in reality it means using a software package to smartly distribute material: "Material is removed from areas of low stress until a design optimised for load bearing is evolved," explains Renishaw. In other words, it takes away redundant material to create the lightest possible frame for a given set of design constraints.
The bike isn't on sale yet, but it is undergoing further testing by Swansea University — in the workshop and on the mountainside — using strain gauges to measure the frame's performance. Eventually, though, you might just be able to download the thing and hit the trails — no bike shops required. [PhysOrg]