Process

The manufacturing process starts with designing the mold for the frame. During design phase 3d software (such as SolidWorks) is used to determine how thick the frame needs to be ie. many layers of carbon composite each part of the frame needs. Normally the frame is glued together from several separate parts (as many as seven) so a mold is needed for each part. The mold has two halfs and a hole for fitting the balloon.

Essentially frames are made mixing polymer epoxy with fiber composite materials. The fibers form a weave that makes up the distinctive carbon fiber patterns. Depending on the width the weaves are called 3k and 12k. The former is finer meshed and the latter wider. The weaves do not necessarily translate to specific riding characteristics. More depends on the epoxy used.

Often times manufacturers advertise that they use Toray carbon from the japanese chemical company. Since the company produces several different types of carbon composites the name Toray does not really tell all that much about the characteristics of the frame. Sometimes there is a mention about using lighter T1000 type. As far as the fibers go at least on one of the pics taken at the FlyBike factory a cardboard box of SkyFlex prepreg from SK Chemicals in Korea is shown so that is at least one brand used in production.

The actual building starts when a composite cutter (such GGT from Gerber) is used to cut preform pieces of fiber composite. Since the fibers are unidirectional the orientation of layers applied on top of each other is important for reaching the desired characteristics for each part of the frame. The pieces of the kit are simply applied into the mold in the designated order and then the resin is applied on top.

To cure the construction a balloon is filled inside the mold and the whole is put into an oven (180F) to dry the epoxy resin. Once ready the frame is assembled from the pieces by gluing them together with resin. Some strips of fibers may be layered on top to hide the connection points. In this phase internal cabling and holes for things like bottle holders are added. Once dried up the frame is taken to be painted and laquered. The carbon monocoque frame is ready for use.

5 thoughts on “Process

  1. How is the balloon removed ?…It seems to me that this method of producing a mould is far too expensive to warrant manufacturing costs ….Perhaps this is the OEM method of producing a mould , but replica manufacturing hardly justifies the expense , considering the selling price.

  2. Perhaps the balloon disintegrates in the oven , but manufacturing costs to produce an aluminium mould must be very high — just think of a CNC machine needed, plus operating costs to produce just 3 or 4 sized moulds . Also profit on just one years production of a certain frame hardly justifies the investment. Pinarello and brand name manufacturers change their design every year …a Pinarello 2015 differs from a 2016 model , for example ……so after just one year , the mould is all but useless , as buyers generally buy latest designs. I have a sneaking feeling that these replica frames are manufactured from original moulds in places of original manufacture ….

  3. Yeah,
    Rumour has it that the first molds were “recycled”. These days the chiner frame designs stay the same for years, but the vendors try to bring something new once a year to keep up the sales. There are 3d modeling companies and CNC machining companies (also in China) so work can be outsourced and there is no need for huge investments. Whether the new designs actually create added-value to the customer is debatable. To me it seems big brands’ “innovation” is just bunch of new proprietary standards being introduced.

  4. I disagree with you ,Raino , when you say that chiner frames stay the same for years. They can’t. Competition does not allow design to stagnate, so if development isn’t kept relatively up to date , then those companies will not sell in comparison to their competitors.The moulds needed can be seen on Youtube ,,,,,however only with the genuine frame manufacturers.It would be fascinating to see where the replica frames are manufacured, the personell that program the machines , and exactly how these moulds are made.Until this is known I cannot accept that any investment by these small companies in outsourcing manufacturing costs can contribute to a profit for them. I find it rather strange that Merida own 49% of Specialized , and that DHgate advertise Spec frames, but not the Olympic and latest colours of the SL5 . Despite an article in Cycling that Specialized are doing everything they can to close pirate manufacturers, it doesn’t seem to be working on DHgate. Most probably because they are not on the US Stockexchange, like Alibaba/Express —– where it’s almost impossible to purchase Chinarello and Spec frames. Anyhow ,,,as long as the exchange rate is favourable , I’ll be looking around for my next “lookalike ” frame from Asia ….regards , Jon.

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