As more manufacturers combine additive manufacturing (AM) processes with innovative design techniques using modern software, the products once thought of as “one-size-fits-all” are becoming increasingly personalized. One such manufacturer is UK-based Robot Bike Company.
Founded by a team of four friends with the goal of “creating the best bike frames possible,” the Robot Bike Company tailors high-end mountain bikes to individual customers. Discerning riders input their weight, height and riding style. The customized bike is sent to the customer within weeks.Although other industries have demonstrated the potential for AM finished parts—particularly F1 racing and aerospace—the bicycle industry has yet to bring a finished commercial product to market that is both customizable and priced competitively. At least, it did until now.
To design a world-class mountain bike that takes full advantage of AM technologies, Robot Bike Company teamed up with simulation specialist Altair to aid in optimizing the bike’s additively manufactured parts to the specifications of customers.
The design team used topology optimization, more common in automotive and aerospace industries, to maximize product performance. Using Altair’s solidThinking Inspire, material in the frame’s titanium connections could be removed, reducing the overall weight without compromising the part’s structural integrity or performance. This also helped to eliminate the need for additional parts.
In this exclusive interview with ENGINEERING.com, Ed Haythornthwaite, cofounder of Robot Bike Company, delves into more detail about how the company brought “the best bike frame possible” from sketch to reality using today’s advanced manufacturing tools and processes.
What makes your bicycle different from other additively manufactured bikes?
It isn’t an additively manufactured bike, per se. We use additive-manufactured titanium lugs and proprietary CFRP [carbon-fiber–reinforced polymer] tubing to enable the frame to be produced bespoke to a customer’s measurements, also enabling a unique double lap shear joint in the areas where the titanium and carbon meet. This enables us to offer the most robust bonded joint possible.
How is the user experience different from buying a traditional pre-fabricated bicycle?
With a traditional bike, you typically walk into a shop and choose which one fits you best from a range of three or so sizes. Obviously, riders come in many more shapes and sizes than three, so that “best” fit is almost always going to be a compromise. Even if you are lucky enough to get the fit right, you may not like the way a bike handles.
In contrast, when buying a Robot Bike Co. frame, each and every one is custom-made—so it fits you perfectly and rides just the way you want it to. You may have to wait a little longer to get hold of one, but we believe the wait is more than worth it.
Think of it as the difference between buying an off-the-peg suit compared with a bespoke one from [a tailor such as] Savile Row. With a Robot Bike Co. frame, you also get to speak directly to the people making the frame. You can even come and see it being made.
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