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I just read an article about how Sir Bradley Wiggins is going to try to break the 1 hour distance record soon. In it they mention

One of the unique new features is a set of 3D printed titanium handlebars

How is that possible? I thought you can only 3D print plastics?

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    I'm tempted to flag this off-topic since it is basically about 3d printing and manufacturing techniques and the only connection to cycling is the fact that the thing to be manufactured is a bicycle part. – Benedikt Bauer Jun 2 '15 at 8:03
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    The real question has to ask is "Why?" What advantages does a titanium handlebar offer? According to the article, the bars are custom fit to his arms, but I think that could have been achieved with more traditional methods. I think the 3D printing is more to draw attention to his effort than to actually provide any real advantage. Interesting that it looks like they've relaxed the rules a bit on what types of bikes are allowed for the hour record. – Kibbee Jun 2 '15 at 12:35
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    There are no significant performance advantages of making these 3D Printed aerobars. It's all for marketing hype in order to express that "Our bike company is so far technically advanced than the others, you should buy our products..." The thing is, the bicycle is a very mature device and now bike companies are doing the smallest things differentiate themselves. It's kinds like saying "5 razor blades is better than 4...buy our stuff!" – CQH Jun 2 '15 at 13:19
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about manufacturing processes. – whatsisname Jun 2 '15 at 18:37
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This is exactly the case where Wikipedia comes in handy, here are some quotes from the article on 3D printing with metals:

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material (typically metal), aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.

The DMLS process involves use of a 3D CAD model whereby a .stl file is created and sent to the machine’s software. A technician works with this 3D model to properly orient the geometry for part building and adds supports structure as appropriate.

Currently available alloys used in the process include 17-4 and 15-5 stainless steel, maraging steel, cobalt chromium, inconel 625 and 718, and titanium Ti6Al4V.[13] Theoretically, almost any alloy metal can be used in this process once fully developed and validated.

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This is how. An engineer explains:

Basically, it's a layering process. Layer by layer, the 3D printer lays down a thin sheet of powdered titanium and a laser melts and fuses that titanium where the part needs to be. It starts at the bottom and works up. When it's all done, you simply remove the unfused titanium and voila, a new part emerges.

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