UK metal-based additive machine manufacturer Renishaw partnered with British design firm Empire Cycles to showcase the potential of their 3D printing and materials technology. The result is a frame they say is both strong and light, coming in 33% lighter than the original prototype. Claimed weight for the front triangle here is 1440g (3.17lb).
The secret to it is both the materials and the “topological optimization”. According to the tech brief, using Renishaw’s metal additive process with titanium results in a finished material that is denser than if the part had been cast, so it’s stronger. And the topological optimization simply means they could precisely design the exact amount and position of material as the parts were being printed, so there’s no excess material to add weight.
This is a really big deal if it works out because one of the big drawbacks from 3D printing (aka additive) is that it’s not as strong as casting (molds) or the strongest fabrication, machining (reductive). If they’ve used this “topological optimization” (whatever that is) to make 3D printing stronger than casting, then that’s a pretty big deal. The only way I can think to get something stronger than machining though would be to use very specialized materials. I’m sure someone’s experimenting with that.