To The Point - Rapid Prototypes

Jan 29, 2013 at 0:05
Jan 29, 2013
by Matt Wragg  
 
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Simon has been mountain biking since his late teens and joined Renthal 18 months ago as an R&D engineer. Before this, he was employed as a consulting mechanical engineer in a small engineering firm in Stockport, Manchester. He graduated from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and has had a varied career background, working across a broad spectrum of engineering projects, predominantly in the oil and gas, nuclear and off-road construction equipment industries. During this time, Simon specialised in numerical simulation and analysis of mechanical systems and at Renthal he uses his skills to develop, design and test new and existing cycle products.

What is rapid prototyping/3D printing?
3D printing is the process of creating a physical part or structure based on an electronic representation, be it a 3D CAD model, drawing or other electronic data. The term ‘rapid’ refers to the time taken to produce the part. Before rapid technology, prototyping involved manufacturing a metal part, which took much longer and was a much more expensive process. With the rapid prototyping process, generally no tooling is required and manufacture set-up time is minimal, if not completely eliminated. This allows us to make small changes and have a tangible product to decide whether fit and cosmetic appeal is right, before committing to a metal prototype.

What materials does it use?
This depends on the rapid prototyping process. Additive 3D printing machines, such as the one at Renthal, use polymer materials such as ABS. Other processes are available; SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and SLM (Selective Laser Melting) create the prototype from powdered materials, which are fused by a laser. SLA (Stereolithography) uses a photo-sensitive liquid polymer, which is cured by a laser.

Process 2

Process 1

The process starts with a 3D model created in CAD software. To show how versatile the process is, Renthal printed the Pinkbike logo for us. Printing starts on a baseplate, which moves down incrementally after each layer is printed. After printing is finished the rapid prototype is removed from the baseplate and must be pulled away from the sacrificial base layer.


How does the actual printing process work?
Renthal uses additive 3D printing. With this method, the physical part is built up in layers. Imagine taking a product and horizontally slicing it into very thin layers. The 3D printer lays down material to create each of these layers individually. After each layer is completed and the polymer has cooled to form a solid, the base is moved down incrementally and then the next layer is printed. This process continues until the full height of the part has been modelled. Details such as overhangs are dealt with by using sacrificial support material. The printing of this support material is far less dense, allowing it to be easily picked away when the model is finished.

Other processes such as SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), SLA (Stereolithography) and SLM (Selective Laser Melting) are different in that they use a laser to melt the top surface of a reservoir of substrate material (powder or liquid), after which the base of the reservoir is lowered, a fresh top layer is deposited and the process repeats.

What do you use the prototypes for?
At Renthal, we use rapid prototyping to fit check components and to provide a more realistic method for aesthetic assessment of new parts. The digital design tools we use are very powerful and are fantastic for the conception and simulation of a part. What rapid prototyping gives us is the ability to quickly create a real part from a virtual representation to assess aspects that can’t be fully comprehended from a computer model.

The finished logo

A finished 3D rapid prototype of the Pinkbike logo.


What are the advantages/disadvantages over a metal prototype?
For us at Renthal, the advantage is that we can very quickly test the feasibility of a part and identify any possible modifications that are required. This is all done with very minimal cost and lead time. The disadvantage is that the rapid proto is not a useable part. We find it hard to find volunteers to field test a plastic stem!

www.renthal.com
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79 Comments

  • + 92
 Hopefully, this will advance to the level where I can download my bike and print it out.
  • + 9
 Just wait five years.
  • + 9
 Dragon - one of the best things I've read here in a while, thank you for this breath of fresh imagination. If only industry hired more people like you, we would have gearbox already. Im not taking a piss, I mean it!
  • + 1
 on that way i would print a status for me Big Grin
  • + 8
 2012- "f*ck the internet's slow today! Hurry up so I can peruse Pinkbikes' latest features and then go ride, damnit!"
2017- "f*ck the internet's slow today! Hurry up so I can print my Glory and then go ride, damnit!"
  • + 19
 "you wouldn't download a pizza"
f*** you I would if I could.
  • + 0
 Print some staplers first , just encase you run out ink half way.
  • + 2
 Disposable bikes, really, is this what we want?
  • + 2
 Sadikon, we already have a company specialised in such disposable components, it's called CBros
  • + 1
 Yeah seriously, additive manufacturing very likely is the future, hell the Nissan Deltawing ALMS team uses 3D printed parts in actual competition, and Aston Martin Racing was known for having 3D printed an entire 2L straight-6 to test fit into their LMP2 chassis before they scrapped the effort. Hollow sodium-filled valves for race engines basically have to be made on a SLS 3D printer, due to being complex hollow shapes. It may be a while before tech advances far enough to allow people to hit "print" on a design and be shredding on it in an hour, but tech is already at the point where you can print out a part, do some mild finishing work, and use it with very little wasted material
  • + 1
 What Im really interested in is, what are the prices additive VS machining or level of complication of the process. There are some silent voices in aviation industry that certain technologies just get too expensive and things get too big to be efficient. Airbus 380, Boey 787, ultimately poor F35. Just as it was with SR-71. Then when I look at Fox with Ti monoblock steerer&crown...
  • + 1
 A home use 3D printer cost substantially less than a good bike and prices are always decreasing.
  • + 1
 only snag with that is I would not trust ANYTHING to come off of a hobby-grade (aka home use) 3D printer with ANY structural loading. if you wanted to use it to prototype parts and test fitment, that's one thing, but it's so easy to get caught up in the capabilities of a 3D printer that you end up designing a part that pretty much has to be made on a DMLS/SLS 3D printer due to the complex internal structures that 3D printing allows you to create. even if it's physically possible for the part to be machined, what looks like a simple part could turn into something that needs possibly DAYS of machinework to produce. I mean, look at the master cylinder on a Hope Race Evo X2 brake. to model it in a CAD/CAM program would be actually pretty simple. but I pity the poor soul who had to write the toolpath to machine just the master cylinder...
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  • + 15
 One thing that wasn't mentioned in the article is that you can use a variation of the SLS to actually print in Steel. The resulting part is actually a sintered powder-steel part that is infiltrated with bronze in the post-printing process. One of the most interesting things about this sort of part is not only its strength, but the fact that it can be welded. Think metal parts with infinite 3D complexity and zero manufacturing considerations needed in the design. Look for smaller bike parts such as derailleurs to be made with this process at some point. Parallelogram breaks, print a new one... Shapeways is one of the vendors that has this technology. They can also pint in ceramic and glass. Another metal RP house is One-EX.
  • + 7
 There is a Charge bikes model which has printed titanium rear dropouts. There was a video featured on here a few months back about it. Exciting times.
  • + 11
 Meanwhile in medicine they are working on Printing limbs.
  • + 8
 For those interested, If you haven't seen this already- Charge bikes Printing titanium bicycle parts

vimeo.com/47522348
  • + 2
 This guy made his whole bike from 3D printed parts

www.instructables.com/id/Custom-3D-Printed-Carbon-Fiber-Bike-Frame

So did this guy

www.instructables.com/id/How-to-use-3D-printing-for-investment-casting-of-c

Both come with instructions so if you have some $$ you could potentially do this yourself.
  • + 1
 By the time we can print in infinite complexity, will we still have to put up with derailleurs?
  • + 2
 other than gear boxes i dont see a better idea. On the flip side we could print gear boxes smaller and more precise with the same ratios? Or if your referring to medicine, the printing isnt so much a complex cellular print, but rather layers of different "inks" each "ink" is a different cell type. The difficulty right now is creating the cellar mesh or "scaffolding" on which all organs are formed. when we crack that mad shit will happen.
  • + 0
 I'd like to see a case-study at a company who uses one of the other processes. Making the PB logo is fine but like the last paragraph says, you can't ride or evaluate a plastic stem.
  • + 1
 Yes print me a gear box now please. I can't afford a Pinion or TFR so do it in such bulk that it is almost free.
[Reply]
  • + 5
 I'm with a company that sells the particular printer that Renthal uses. There's a lot more materials than PB says is available, and the article doesn't really do the technology justice. If anyone wants more info feel free to PM me, or check out our website: www.cimetrixsolutions.com
[Reply]
  • + 4
 About twenty years ago the company I worked for at the time had our product made in the greatest 'rapid prototype' technology of the day - little three millimetre wooden cubes all glued together and then filed down. The company charged us the same amount that a home-use 3D printer costs today.

The MTB parallel: I had just bought myself a Giant ATX 980, and I've recently bought a Giant Anthem X Advanced which is far lighter, has more travel, is stronger, has far better suspension, brakes and shifting, and costs less than twice as much after twenty years.
  • + 0
 True true, such stuff is amazing I wish I had an easy access to such tool. yet... best designers from many disciplines that put a big pressure on form and aesthetics still use traditional methods like clay Smile I was quite shocked to hear that the architect of RedBulls F1 team, Adrian Newey, draws f1 car by hand.

New tech like this 3D printing is so great, that it is easy to forger that it is just a tool, the brain has to work freely Smile

Cheers!
[Reply]
  • + 3
 These things are fun to mess around with. We got one at my last job and although we thought it would just be used for prototypes, we could use it for testing fixtures, office supplies, you name it. You can alter the settings to increase or decrease the density of the ABS in certain locations to save material, since that's pretty much the only thing you'll be paying for after the initial purchase.
  • + 2
 I will soon be able to do 3D printing in my high school engineering class using auto desk inventor. Great stuff to work with.
  • + 1
 solidworks my friend!
  • + 1
 Catia ! Solidwork is basically the same soft with inventor, differences are between modelling processor and some functions But at the end the part is converted in stl and they are all the same
  • + 1
 MOI. Great modeler that does incredible .stl.
[Reply]
  • + 4
 "The disadvantage is that the rapid proto is not a useable part. We find it hard to find volunteers to field test a plastic stem!" I will test pretty much anything you throw my way, "call me".
[Reply]
  • + 3
 crazy to think how things have progressed from carving out a block of wood or clay or just to have to make and see how it works to printing a proto, pretty nuts, cant see it being long untill someone finds a way how to do the SLM thing with metal particles so you basicly print a near finished product that just needs faces skimed or bored to the correct size.
  • + 2
 There are already machines that can 3d print with metal its pretty crazy stuff just. $$$$$$$! And one that can do chocolate but that's not really as practical..
  • + 1
 For those interested, If you haven't seen this already- Charge bikes Printing titanium bicycle parts

vimeo.com/47522348
  • + 2
 Here is how to make cookies if you were so inclined. www.instructables.com/id/3d-printed-Cookies
  • + 4
 @almightybenners i dont know about you, but i think chocolate in any form is pretty practical...
  • + 2
 Would totally eat a chocolate stem
  • + 2
 Titanium honeycomb anyone? Could we one day print carbon nanotubes?
  • + 1
 I believe they are working on it, but with living bacteria "builders" rather than machines. One day you're bike could be built by mold.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 F*ck I love technology.
  • + 1
 I reckon your not a machinist, welder, fabricator, fitter and turner etc. Say bye to their jobs.
  • + 1
 @choppertank not the case at least in my experience. Sometimes the fabricators are the ones driving these machines. And while 3D printing is faster in most cases, an experienced machinist will make beautiful usable parts out of various materials and be confident in their properties. The processes complement each other, not replace one another. Of course it depends on the attitude of the "machinist, welder, fabricator, fitter and turner etc"
  • + 1
 Well my oldest mate is a machinist and welder and works in a custom fabrication shop. So maybe he'll get one of these in the workshop one day and print me out my dream bike.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 you can have 3d printer for like 300$ so it's quite cheap, and as nobody mention you can print with policarbon or nylon so you can pretty much make yourself some bikeparts that your life doesn't depends on eg. stopper watch mount or cable guide, small fender, or bottom frame protector perhaps even a rear derailleur cog. The best part is printing things you don't know how they work and you get idea faster than just trying to imagine thing like wankel engine www.thingiverse.com/thing:42579 or hypocycloid reductor. You have christmass everyday Razz
[Reply]
  • + 2
 A friend of mine and i made a one of these from a home printer and a lot of custom made pieces sourced from other machines in 2008. My idea was to potentially design bike parts. It takes a lot of time to make your own 3d printer, but it works. Search online and you will find instructions. About 200 pages worth.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 We house a 3D printer here in Springfield Missouri...I work as an Engineering Solution consultant and always get excited when managing a rapid prototyping project. What is even cooler is seeing the ABS rapid prototype part being used in the field as it was cheaper to print the part than to machine and the prototype material will withstand the abuse in the field.

I would love to do something for a mountainbike...only done a stem for my fixed gear so far Smile
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Nice Job.

You can make some things with rapid prototyping, and every day you are more near the final version. For exemple the "selective laser meleting" = The same things that we see in this article, but with a laser. Developed by irepa Laser. NASA use it.

But when we speak about MTB, I give to you the that : www.vitalmtb.com/community/bretzelprod,19994/setup,19625 = Fender for the new LAST HERB 204 with mold in rapid protoyping and thermorforming.

One hour for product the mold with 3D printing, and 20 min for thermoforming. What else ?
[Reply]
  • + 3
 "We find it hard to find volunteers to field test a plastic stem!"
Ready to test, I am
The strength whith me shall be
  • + 5
 Maybe you can also have rapid replacement plastic teeth.
  • + 2
 wrap it in duct tape, better than a havoc.
  • + 1
 Duct tape teeth O_O !
ok just miss read

Ps: ceramic is better for teeth, already try this
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Hey people ceck out my Rapid prototype intergrated stem! I designed it so you could attach rubber bumps to the crown if you didnt have them already build into the frame, just to tidy it up - By the way its not finished.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 At FitDesk we use 3D printing to test new designs of desks made to use while on a bike in a trainer. New version (3D tested) coming February 2013. Check them out. www.fitdesk.net You could be riding right now!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 3d printing will forever change patents in America.
Will it be used for good or evil?
Companies like defense distributed raise interesting questions.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 pretty funny seeing this kinda thing on PB. I work for a RP company in the UK and see & sell this stuff everyday and it's really not that exciting anymore!
  • + 1
 I was thinking exactly the same thing.
  • + 1
 ot pinkbke though is it. nout beats pinkbike for any type of info, plus international audience aswell makes for a very promicing future. : )
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  • + 1
 i love the idea, i think pinkbike should pt then pinky signs into production as ide well buy one, or little keyring and helmet 3d stikies for the side of ya lids, ace : )
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Charge Bikes already have a CX frame with printed titanium dropouts. There's a vid of it on their site somewhere
[Reply]
  • + 1
 more infor on these printers if you are interested www.cimetrixsolutions.com
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Too bad this didn't make it to the main page, it is very interesting.
  • + 2
 it'll get there...
  • + 16
 Aaaand there you go.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 I just made something made for my DBAir at www.shapeways.com
[Reply]
  • + 1
 The process is cool, but what is this 3D leather logo mainly meant to be? I think there should be some sort of 3D sticker
  • + 2
 Leather...or ABS?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Very Interesting tech article PB. Thanks
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Ill test a plastic stem i if can keep one to
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I want one! any way of getting it?
[Reply]
  • + 1
 they should put these into production
  • + 1
 The machines are already up for sale even for general consumers, but they cost an arm and a leg. On the other hand there are places that can rent them out for printing. One of our universities does it, but i can't remember which...
[Reply]
  • + 1
 I want a metal pb logo!
  • + 4
 I'm a machine operator for a RP company. I print thousands of parts a week and it never gets boring. I love this stuff. SLS is my fav. We just started testing printing parts with a carbon fiber powder. This could prove to be very useful in the bike industry.
  • + 1
 @OGBrowner what machine is that? The one that can print cf.
[Reply]

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