Sturdy Cycles, a bespoke bike producer based in Somerset, has switched production of its titanium bike parts to Cold Metal Fusion (CMF) technology from German 3D printing firm Headmade Materials.
The two companies will work together to 3D print titanium components such as crank arms, frame connectors and base parts, for Sturdy Cycles’ Fiadh titanium road bike using CMF, the owner and framebuilder of Sturdy Cycles, Tom Sturdy, favoring technology over SLM.
“Since Headmade Materials is very closely involved in part development, Tom pointed out the benefits of our technology to us in a conversation,” said Andreas Schertler, Applications Engineer at Headmade Materials.
Headmade’s CMF technology
Headmade Materials was established in 2019 after being spun off from the polymer research institute Das Kunstsoff-Zentrum (SKZ) in Wuerzburg, Germany. Company founders Christian Staudigel and Christian Fischer made it their mission to design a process that would make serial 3D printing cheaper and more accessible, which led to the development of CMF.
CMF extensively combines metal sintering with SLS in a new manufacturing technique, with Headmade’s proprietary 3D printing material setting it apart from conventional SLS processes. The company’s metal powder raw material is embedded in a plastic binder matrix that both improves its fluidity and increases its compatibility with different machines.
The four-step CMF process begins with scaling the CAD file of a target object before it is produced layer by layer in the same way as SLS 3D printing, but at a temperature below 80 °C. Operating at a lower temperature significantly reduces heating and cooling times, avoiding the need for external cooling devices, while providing energy and time saving benefits.
After the printing phase, the parts are then pickled, post-treated, debinded and sintered. During printing, the plastic binder contained in Headmade’s proprietary powdered resin is melted and used only as a support structure, providing parts that the company claims are comparable to those produced by injection molding.
The partnership with Sturdy Cycles is not the first time the company’s CMF technology has been deployed for bicycle component production. Last year Headmade teamed up with 3D printing service bureau Element22 to develop a new 3D printed bicycle pedal design dubbed MyTi. Initially available for kickstarting, titanium clipless pedals were released under the joint Titanum brand later that year.
3D printing of fiadh
For its latest bike-related project, Headmade has teamed up again with Element22 to 3D print the titanium components of Sturdy Cycles’ Fiadh titanium road bike. The Fiadh is designed to be a sporty road bike and as such it needs weight optimized durable components.
Frame builder Sturdy is no stranger to 3D printing, having previously partnered with metal 3D printing service provider RAM3D to produce titanium components for its other road bike models. Sturdy chose 3D printing because of its ability to produce parts with complex geometries not achievable by conventional manufacturing means, a core part of its custom bike frame business.
Having realized the added benefits of CMF, Sturdy has now switched production of several titanium bicycle parts to this technology. The technique is being exploited to produce 3D-printed connectors that are welded to polished tubes on the Fiadh frame and accommodate major bike components such as handlebars, saddle and bottom bracket.
The bike’s base is also made entirely of components 3D printed using CMF, as are the model’s cranks, which Sturdy now distributes as part of a standalone crankset.
Due to the bespoke nature of Study Cycles’ business, each bike’s individual segments are structurally similar in design, but no two bikes are the same. With parts tailored to individual riders, all components have different dimensions, which has now become economically feasible in large volumes thanks to Headmade’s CMF technology. In fact, Sturdy is now aiming to produce annual quantities of triple-digit fiadh.
According to him, this is made possible by the excellent stability of the CMF process and the resulting repeatability for components, which has led to easier and more efficient production of frames and parts. The technology also provides less stress to metal parts compared to those produced with SLM, while the improved part surface achieved with the technique simplifies the surface finishing process for components.
Sturdy also attributes the efficiencies to the reduced amount of preparatory work required to integrate CMF printed components into the bike manufacturing process, compared to SLM parts. The improved quality of parts supplied by CMF further means that the majority of the work can be carried out on site at the Sturdy production facility, reducing costs and coordination efforts with various service providers.
“Component production has now been fully taken over by titanium specialist Element22 and we are happy to contribute with our Cold Metal Fusion technology to ensure that these dreamlike road bikes from Sturdy Cycles find their way to many happy customers,” said said Fischer, CEO and co-founder of Headmade Material.
According to the more than 40 CEOs, executives, and experts who shared their predictions of 3D printing trends for 2022 with us, advances in material qualification and growing demand for higher-performance materials illustrate the confidence manufacturers place in to additive manufacturing technologies, while the technology’s ability to enable mass customization is expected to bring “enormous value” to a multitude of applications to benefit both industries and people.
Subscribe to the 3D Printing Industry Bulletin for the latest additive manufacturing news. You can also stay connected by following us on Twitter and love us on Facebook.
Looking for a career in additive manufacturing? To visit 3D printing works for a selection of roles in the industry.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest 3D printing video shorts, reviews and webinar replays.
Featured image shows Sturdy Cycles fiadh road bike. Photo via Headmade Materials.