It was in the making for more than a year - now we can show you the first part that is coming out of our own manufacturing site. New processes and materials allow us to make high performance products in a more sustainable way.
When the started to think about getting into manufacturing, we started it with the idea to do things different than what the bicycle industry traditionally is doing. With an open view to what other industries are using and what technologies are available outside of Asia, we came up with a plan that allows us to rely not on availability of low income workforce, but invest in technology and research. We combined and refined proven technologies for our needs, and we have a range of products lined up that we will be able to introduce to the market over the coming months.
Think of it as forging, but in carbon fiber. Compression molding compounds are nothing new, but gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. A charge of roughly shaped material is placed inside the mold, and then pressed into the cavity using pressures as high as 100 bar - roughly 10 times of what is used in bladder forming. Due to this immense pressure, forming and compaction of complex, solid sections is much better than in a traditional process. Also the part comes out of mold almost perfectly - only a some resin flash to remove and the part is ready to be used. Due to it is a net shape process, and the raw material is cut into simple shapes, it is essentially a zero waste process too, making sure all precious carbon fiber gets used.
CPMC is nothing new, but mainly useful for solid parts. But parts on bicycles are more often than not hollow, with some solid sections. A perfect example for this is the seat post tube. Layup in UD prepreg with bladder forming is perfect for the hollow tube section, but CPMC is a much better process for the solid sections like the head of the seat post. So we set out to create a process that combines both. We came up with a method that offers excellent compaction on both the hollow and solid sections, defined inside surfaces on the hollow sections, as well as simplicity and repeatability.
The head of our Faserwerk Wuthocker seatpost is formed in CPMC, while the tube is made by unidirectional carbon fiber prepreg, combining the strengths of two manufacturing processes into one product. It is all created in one shot to get a uniform part with best strength.
Development in the bicycle industry in big parts relies on experience, which is very valuable. But we decided that instead of taking an educated guess of what is happening inside a part, we want to really understand what is happening. We do this by the use of FEA and a software called Laminate Tools.
We are using Femap with NX Nastran as our FEA software. The Nastran solver was originally developed by Nasa, and is still used for aerospace applications. With Femap, we can precisely replicate the loading situation we want to simulate. For parts made from isotropic materials like aluminum or CPMC, it is the perfect tool to see where we get high stress, what deformation and stiffness we can expect.
Laminate Tools is a special to design layups following the same steps that happen in manufacturing, simulating the effects of draping the layers around your parts. Building the layup ply by ply, taking effects like fiber distortion and crimpling into account, you end up with a virtual model of your composite part that is much closer than what you can achieve in a regular FEA software.
Laminate Tools goes hand-in-hand with Femap. We can export our layup model to Femap and simulate all different loadcases there.