Modern know-how is frequently opening the door to new ideas. Metal hydroforming, computer-managed milling, and laser cutting are all now commonplace inside bicycle components manufacturing. And whereas nonetheless area of interest in its utilization, you can add 3D printing to the list.
Relating to 3D printing steel for bicycle functions, few have more fingers-on experience than the Melbourne-based group at Bastion Cycles. They first used 3D-printed titanium lugs in 2015 to supply the first custom road bike of its kind. The model continues to refine the expertise today. For the previous three years, the young Australian company has relied on in-house printing capabilities.
Bastion uses its 3D steel printers to produce the titanium lugs that dictate the custom geometry and stiffness of its carbon tubed bicycles, and as of this year, the brand’s now producing its personal forks and cockpits, too. The corporate additionally produces body components for famend Australian customized builders equivalent to Prova Cycles, Baum Cycles, Devlin, Mooro, and more.
So what precisely is 3D-printed metallic? What processes are concerned? And what are the restrictions? To answer these questions, we sat down with Bastion’s co-founder and engineering director, James Woolcock.
Step one: The data
Before building any parts, you want the information to inform the printers what to print. In this sense 3D printing isn’t all that totally different to printing a digital photograph or operating a CNC milling machine – you have to have a design and the information of what you’d prefer to make.
“Our core power is parametric modelling,” Woolcock stated. “We generate the CAD (laptop-aided design) mannequin of what we want to print. In our case [that data must] have the structural lattice equipped to the inside and then we use a skinny wall outer pores and skin and construction.
“We then put together that information [by means of another pc program – ed.] to be sliced in a manner that the printer can read. That turns into a 3-4 gigabyte file transferred to the printer and that instructs the printer to direct the laser beam to simply the portion of the cross-part that we’re constructing at a time.”
Step two: On to the printers
“The steel 3D-printing we do is with titanium, and titanium tube cost we run two Renishaw machines that use a laser to melt titanium powder layer by layer,” defined Woolcock of how the elements build up in an additive fashion.
The process is basically like welding steel, but moderately than melting pre-current metal pieces collectively, it happens one mud particle at a time. Each of Bastion’s printers features a single laser that melts the wonderful layer of titanium powder in place. That occurs at an insanely high temperature – about 1,700 °C – and meaning an inert gasoline must be used (argon on this case) to purge the chamber of any oxygen.
(Such oxygen purging is widespread in more traditional titanium welding strategies to ensure consistent results, but the temperature used here means the titanium powder would ignite if not in the presence of an inert gas).
With each layer, the machine provides extra powder until ultimately, the items are built up into a useable part.
“Eventually” is probably the important thing. In Bastion’s case, these usable components usually take two full days – 48 hours – to be printed. Bastion makes efficient use of that time by printing multiple elements on a single print mattress. “We tetris components in [to the out there area] and fill it as much as we will each build,” Woolcock mentioned.
“In that time we’re printing what’s successfully the lugs of the bicycle, the bottom bracket, head bracket, seat bracket and dropouts, as well because the seat topper. For our bicycle frames, we bond those lugs along with carbon fibre tubes. We’re also making a wide range of different elements and components in titanium.”
Table measurement is often the limitation of what might be printed. “Our machines have a build envelope of 250 mm sq. and as high as 330-340 mm excessive,” said Woolcock of what equates to a roughly one-foot cube of printing potential. “You need fairly a bit of [titanium] powder on hand to print that high. If you liked this article and you simply would like to obtain more info with regards to Titanium Tube Cost nicely visit the web-site. “
Step three: Retrieving the print
“It is kind of involved,” stated Woolcock when requested what follows the print. “You’re left with a construct plate that must be recovered, and all of the titanium powder that wasn’t consumed must be recovered and recycled.”
Not only is the print process gradual and the titanium powder extremely expensive, but it’s additionally doubtlessly hazardous, too. In consequence the printers that Bastion makes use of sit within a sealed clean-room. When the superb powder is exposed – similar to when a print is finished – workers are required to put on overalls and respirators because the unmelted material is each flammable and dangerous to the lungs. With the print achieved a workers member will retrieve the entire build plate. Carefully remove the leftover powder. This excess titanium powder is carefully sifted out. The free particles which were touched by the laser are collected for titanium scrap recycling, whereas the virgin powder is kept for the subsequent print run.
The whole build plate is now ready for the following stage.
Step four: Heat remedy for stress relief
“There is still residual stress within the components from the printing course of,” Woolcock stated. “The build plate goes right into a furnace underneath argon, and it goes via a heat treat and annealing course of. Then the components are robust and good, and able to go.”
Step 5: Testing and parting out the pieces
Take an in depth look at the printed parts and you’ll see some skinny tabs that look extra like cocktail skewers than something useable for cycling. These are specifically printed to do batch testing – one thing Bastion does with every print run.
“We do check samples on every construct to make sure we’re getting the yield strength and elongation we expect,” Woolcock said. “From that point the elements on the build plate might be reduce off, the sacrificial supports needed to carry the elements are removed. After which these components move into machining.”
The metal build plate (which the parts are printed on) is also machined and polished, ready for re-use with the next print.
new cockpit after we visited.
Step six: Machining
“The components that come out of the printer [after which furnace] are still not 100% prepared to be used, particularly if they’ve received a bearing interface, or a precision fit portion, threads that want chasing [cleansing up], and so on,” Woolcock said. “So there are quite just a few machining operations relying on what the end use of that half is.”
Bastion lately invested in its first CNC mill to assist with numerous the machining processes, equivalent to cleansing up its T47 bottom bracket shells after printing.
Step seven: Surface ending
“We have fairly detailed surface ending,” Woolcock said. “You’ll see [that] the surface ending straight off the print nonetheless has a degree of grain. We offer totally different ranges of end on our bikes: blasted finish, polished, and many others.”
Bastion employs a quantity of different strategies depending on the requested finish. The corporate has a tumbler machine to help with a lot of the guide labour, but much of it remains to be done by hand with the aid of sprucing tools (think bench grinder with polishing pads). It’s dirty work.
Step eight: Clean, prep, bond
In parallel to the 3D-printing, Bastion works on preparing the carbon fibre tubes of the bicycle. Some of these tubes, such because the chainstays, fork blades, and handlebar tops are produced in-house, while the main filament-wound tubes of the bicycle are produced in Sydney.
“So once the construct went right down to print, one other drawing was executed for carbon fibre tube preparation,” Woolcock explained. “So the tubes are being minimize to length specific to that body. And the titanium and carbon items come collectively in our carbon composites lab.
“We have quite an elaborate bonding process to work by way of in order that the parts are completely clear and that each sides of the bonded parts are ready for the 2-half epoxy that we use.”
Luescher Teknik to make sure ultra high quality requirements.
Where 3D printed metal is headed
Clearly, Bastion has been in a position to create a profitable small business via the usage of 3D-printing metal, and they’re not alone. There’s growing demand for the technology, and we’re even seeing brands resembling Silca and Pinarello now employing the know-how.
However, Woolcock nonetheless sees it as a reasonably area of interest manufacturing method. “This isn’t a mass production technology, it’s better to think of it as a customisation know-how,” he said. “You’re not attempting to make thousands of issues a day; it’s about with the ability to do one thing delicate each time.
“It’s not going to be as quick as stamping elements, or as fast as hydroforming components. There nonetheless needs to [be] a robust cause to choose to print, whether or not it’s customisation or extremely-lightweight / high stiffness-weight ratio. Bastion remains highly invested in metallic 3D printing. Is frequently working to seek out useful purposes for the technology. Along with creating parts for other makers, the company is producing approximately 200 of its own bikes a year and is currently tooling up to provide a bike a day.
The cost of the machines and uncooked materials also means there are vital boundaries to entry. Print speeds are progressing, and titanium wire the latest machines function quad lasers versus the one-laser versions Bastion employs. But still, the know-how is fundamentally the identical and the eventual printed product isn’t any different.
“The subsequent frontier is the automation of lots of the ancillary functions across the machine,” Woolcock stated. “The machines we run are manually sieved. So we’re manually handling the powder. And the heat treat process is done individually for us, too. There are machines coming onto the market which are more end-to-finish that do all their very own inside powder handling and heat deal with course of and might then reload a build plate for themselves and keep going.”
So what about printing bigger items of a bike, and even a whole body? “A bigger [print] mattress possibly enables you to do different things, however you’re still restricted by the velocity [this straight corresponds with an uneconomical cost – ed.] Getting a bigger bed doesn’t imply you’ll be able to get extra out the door. I don’t see in the subsequent few years anybody printing a complete bicycle in a single go, no less than with this technology. There are several types of additive manufacturing that declare to be able to print an entire frame in one go, however it’s not going to have the best properties required.”
CyclingTips visited Bastion whereas in city for the Handmade Bicycle Show Australia. That manufacturing facility go to also resulted in a sit-down with Mark Hester of Prova Cycles about all issues geometry, plus more content which is still to come.
It has come to our attention that various readers believe this article was posted in response to what occurred to the Australia staff pursuit squad on the Olympics. Please word that this feature was coincidentally printed some eight hours earlier than the incident occurred. We wish Bastion Cycles and the AusCycling group all the most effective in diagnosing the reason for the product failure.