It's a first: a bike frame created entirely via 3-D printing. Empire's prototype, on display at the London Bike Show, is solid (or rather hollow) titanium, and weighs just 1,400 grams — around 3 pounds.
Naturally, things like the tires, seat and chain can't be 3-D printed, but printing the entire frame is a big step. It's not printed out whole, though: The parts are made clustered together in a block by melting titanium dust with a laser, then bonded together.
The parts are printed together in a block, separated, then assembled and permanently bonded.
Empire teamed up with additive manufacturing company Renishaw, and it took them about six months to produce the bike. Other companies have produced 3-D printed parts, but this is the first frame that's entirely made by this method.
Is it actually practical, though? It's just as strong as the Empire frame it's based on and quite a bit lighter, but the process doesn't exactly lend itself to mass manufacture.
So chances are if you buy a 3-D printed frame any time soon, it'll be a custom job and quite expensive. But a few years down the line, this may be both common and affordable.
First published February 14 2014, 1:13 PM
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer at NBC News; he started his role in April of 2013. Coldewey is responsible for original reporting on a number of tech topics, such as photography, biotechnology, and Internet policy.
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Coldewey joined NBCNews.com from TechCrunch, where he was an editor covering a similarly wide variety of content and industries. His personal website is coldewey.cc.