Electron Beam Melting
If you have a desire for something completely different and £300 burning a hole in your trousers, UK company Mythos has a stem for you. Pronounced "icksoh," the very unique-looking IXO stem is manufactured via a 3D-printing process, and you can literally see straight through the finished product. Starting at 147-grams, it's also light and, according to Mythos, very strong and stiff.
Mythos will offer two versions of the IXO when it's available this coming January; there will be 40mm and 50mm lengths to choose from, and both will have 35mm handlebar clamps and the same 38mm stack height. If you want your own UK-grown titanium stem, you'll need to sign up for the pre-order and hand Mythos £300 via their direct-to-consumer website.
Mythos IXO details
• 3D-Printed titanium
• Lengths: 40mm, 50mm
• Rise: 0mm
• Handlebar clamp: 35mm only
• Stack height: 38mm
• Material: Aerospace-grade titanium (Ti6Al4V)
• Weight: From 147g (including hardware)
• MSRP: £300 (including UK VAT)
• More info: www.mythos.bike
We've been talking about 3D-printing a lot recently, including Brian's articles
and a recent podcast on the topic
, and there are a bunch of different ways companies are printing components. Mythos' parent company is a UK engineering firm called Metron
who has been manufacturing ultra-high-end bike parts for ages, but this is their first mountain bike stem and it's made using a process called Electron Beam Melting. EBM is similar to Selective Laser Melting, which is a more common process, in that both 'grow' the component via powder. Where they differ is that SLM uses boring old lasers while EBM uses a beam of electrons in a vacuum environment. Another difference is that while SLM can be used with all sorts of materials, the EBM process requires conductive metals.
The process involves an electron gun, which is real and not science fiction, that shoots out a beam of electrons at about half the speed of light from a tungsten filament when it's superheated. Mythos is doing that at their Derbyshire facility in the UK, the same place where they manufacture their equally crazy-looking Elix stem that's even more expensive
So, why does the IXO look so different next to other stems? "Using a manual topology optimization method we switched between FEA (Finite Element Analysis) simulations and CAD software to identify load paths and therefore areas that needed more or less material, and then made those changes iteratively. This method is what allowed us to minimize the material used and deliver maximum strength and stiffness, resulting in a stem with this unique look,'' they explained in the press release. In other words, FEA allows them to figure out where the material is and isn't needed, and the Electron Beam Melting process lets them create a stem based on that information.
Mythos also says that all versions of their printed stem exceed the 200,000 cycle test program at ISO-specified forces, and that early samples have been in the field since last summer without issue. As for performance, I'm not convinced that any of us will notice a rigidity gain versus a normal stem, especially given the short length, but Mythos did say that the IXO is 11% stiffer in bending and 16% stiffer in torsion.
Do we need an expensive 3D-printed stem made out of titanium? Definitely not. Will we notice any benefits from the claimed rigidity gains? Definitely questionable at this point. So, why do I still want to try one? Not just because it looks different, which is a factor, but also because while this expensive and exotic piece of metal won't change my life or even my ride, it being on the front lines of usable technology brings something to the table that I can appreciate... Even if I can't afford it.
It's expensive and obviously a niche product for a small audience, but would you run the IXO stem if the price wasn't an issue? There are also similarly priced carbon fiber stems on the market as well, so which one would you pick for your money-no-object dream build?