Countless people use bicycles every day. They’re so ubiquitous that we rarely give them a second thought unless we’re purchasing one. When we do that, we like to make sure we get the perfect fit and performance level.
Renishaw is doing just that for the Great Britain Cycling Team, and it’s paying off in one of the biggest ways—with Olympic medals. Renishaw, a global engineering firm headquartered near Bristol, manufactured an ingenious new track bike for the team. The company used its knowledge of additive manufacturing (AM) to help create the high-tech bike that the Great Britain Cycling Team then rode to win seven medals at the Tokyo Olympics.
Renishaw was approached by British Cycling in early 2019 to join the HB.T bike development team with Lotus Engineering, which was already onboard. The automotive consultancy, which designed the iconic 108 and 110 bikes ridden by Olympic gold medalist Chris Boardman in 1992, had already collaborated with Hope Technology, a cycling component manufacturer, to build the HB.T. The objective of the collaboration was to design a cycle that would improve the bike’s speed in order to help the Great Britain Cycling Team refine its performances and push for medals.
Ben Collins, a Design and Development Engineer for Renishaw’s Additive Manufacturing Group, was pivotal to the project, and was excited to see how Great Britain’s push for Olympic gold medals could be enhanced by Renishaw’s involvement. Collins explained that the team recognized how 3D printed metal could create more complex and lightweight components than standard manufacturing methods, and that optimizing strength to weight would be crucial to success. Their goal was to design a bike that was light enough for Olympic competition, and the HB.T enhances previous designs by using a lightweight build to improve overall speed and reduce drag.
Renishaw used its own AM expertise to quickly print plastic and metal prototype parts for aerodynamic testing of the new design. The parts needed to be strong enough to sustain the strain from the riders, and also lightweight and geometrically accurate. Once the proof of concept was successful, Renishaw used its RenAM 500Q systems to manufacture titanium and aluminum parts, customizing the various parts, such as handlebars for the competition bikes, for the individual athletes.
Other companies have taken on 3D printing various parts for bikes. Tim Schutze created the PRO/CES 3D printed bike saddle, which was designed to be genderless and customized for the needs of each rider. In 2020 Carbon partnered with Specialized to design its version of a 3D printed saddle called the Adaptive. Even with the increased popularity and creation of individualized cycle parts, Renishaw’s project is quite unique.
The partnership was a massive success. Not only did the team win a total of seven Olympic medals, but it also did so while making British Olympic History. Laura Kenny won a gold medal in the Madison with Katie Archibald and a silver medal in the women’s team pursuit, which made her the most successful British female Olympian of all time. Jason Kenny’s gold medal in the men’s keirin and silver in the men’s team sprint also made him Britain’s most successful Olympian ever.
“It was really exciting to see Renishaw’s expertise play a pivotal part in Great Britain’s push for Olympic gold medals at Tokyo,” Collins said. “The team won three gold medals, three silver and one bronze, which was a brilliant achievement for the cyclists and a great showcase for the benefits of additive manufacturing.”
It’s safe to say that after their brilliant work during the Olympics, Renishaw and the Great Britain Cycling Team’s partnership is only beginning, as the company is now a long-term official supplier for the team. We can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
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