Introducing… Robot Bike Co. – Bespoke Additive Manufactured Precision Engineering

The Robot Bike Co, in collaboration with HiETA Technologies, Altair and Renishaw, unveiled the R160 enduro mountain bike frame on Thursday 26th May – to great acclaim!

Marking a milestone in collaborative additive manufacturing/3D printing technology, Robot Bike represents a giant leap towards the goal of AM mass customisation – and is ready for customers to order from June 2016.

Robot Bike was launched at an exclusive preview event attended by the ‘great and the good’ of #ukmfg, media and influencers. The audience watched an exciting video of the Robot Bike Co R160 in action and had the opportunity to take it for a spin!

Breaking the Mould
Unprecedented design freedom has been achieved through the development of a unique construction using titanium lugs, proprietary carbon fibre tubing and a double lap shear joint bonding concept.

Through the experience of the partner companies, each frame can be tailored to a customer’s individual measurements and riding preferences, with the added benefit that the frame can be constantly improved as new technologies emerge, as the production process is not constrained by conventional manufacturing methods, with expensive moulds and tooling. The new frame concept was developed by the Robot Bike Co. which was founded in 2013 by HiETA’s Ben Farmer Andy Hawkins, with Ed Haythornthwaite and Ben Robarts-Arnold.

Robot Bike Co has a clear mission: to exceed known limits and make the best mountain bike frames possible. Each of the partners are leaders in their own technology fields and the frame design and engineering are therefore grounded in years of experience in demanding sectors such as aerospace, automotive and F1.

Pioneering Partnerships
The suspension design has been developed and tailored for Robot Bike Co. by Dave Weagle, one of the world’s foremost suspension designers, with an awesome track record in developing original and world class-leading suspension designs for mountain bikes.

HiETA Technologies is a specialist additive manufacturing development and project engineering company based in the Bristol and Bath Science Park. With 25 specialist engineers, it covers product design, manufacturing readiness and project management services from conceptual design and process development through to early-stage manufacturing support, providing its clients and users with the process and facilitating the delivery of innovative products from concept through to end product and commercialisation. Simulation specialist, Altair, was responsible for the optimisation of the bike’s additively manufactured connectors. Using solidThinking Inspire software, Altair was able to maximize the benefit of additive manufacturing by identifying where material in the connectors could be removed to save weight and reduce part count without compromising performance. These engineering techniques are commonly used throughout the automotive and aerospace industries to maximize product performance but are equally valuable to bike manufacturers.

Mike Adams, CEO of HiETA Technologies, reflects on the achievement: “One of the great aspirations of additive manufacturing has always been “mass customisation”. Leading this project has allowed us to see integration of all the elements – a great new frame design, the use of state of the art software tools for optimisation and automation, the flexibility of the manufacturing process itself and effective collaboration between our partners is a great advert for the technologies and the South West of England showcasing that the aspiration is becoming a reality.”

Renishaw is a world leader in dimensional metrology, spectroscopy and healthcare, applying its expertise to improve operational efficiencies in a vast range of industries and applications, from aerospace and renewable energy to dentistry and brain surgery. It is also the UK’s only manufacturer of metal additive manufacturing systems. Commenting on the collaboration, Marc Saunders, Director – Global Solutions Centres for Renishaw enthused: “We’ve been delighted to lend our expertise in additive manufacturing, machining and metrology to deliver a high-quality bike frame from an initial design concept. This typifies the approach that we are taking with our Solutions Centres, where we are working closely with our customers to create designs that maximise the production and lifetime benefits that can be gained from using an additive manufacturing process.”

Paul Kirkham, Team Leader at Altair’s Bristol office, commented: “This has been an interesting and exciting project. Additive manufacturing is the perfect scenario for design optimisation techniques as it allows us to produce components and systems that are far closer to the ideal balance of weight and performance. Robot Bike Co. now has a design that will offer its customer a bike that is truly innovative and unique.”

The Savile Row of the bike world

“It doesn’t matter how good a frame is if it doesn’t fit the rider, and this is where Robot Bike Co. sees the weakness in the current market offerings”, says RBC’s Ed Haythornthwaite, “If you’re trying to produce the very best frame it makes no sense to then only offer it in a small number of sizes when the people you are selling it to come in all shapes and sizes. Think of Robot Bike Co. as the ‘Savile Row’ of the bike world.”

The retail price will be around £4,395 with a lead time of 4 weeks, and the frames will be available to order from June 2016.