In a world first, a Swiss company claims to have ‘woven’ a carbon fibre composite cycle frame using a purpose built patented robot, guaranteeing the highest level of precision in design and removing any scope for error for the first time.
“In conventional cycle frame building, racing bikes are meticulously laid-up by hand, using hundreds of carbon mat layers but the Impec cycle frame from Swiss company BMc, therefore, sets a new benchmark in both the cycling and weaving technology industries,” the company said at this week’s Composites Europe show in Essen, Germany. Although BMc refers to weaving the frame, Innovation in Textiles believes that the company is in fact using braiding technology and is seeking clarification.
Load Specific Weave (LSW)
BMC has developed and patented new manufacturing methods and technologies for all stages of the Impec frame and says this provides the scope for automatically manufacturing carbon tubes that are tailored to specific loads – a technology that BMC has called load specific weave (LSW). The density of the ‘weave ‘can be influenced by the varying speed with which the robot feeds the loom, allowing the material to be optimised to meet the specific requirements of each particular zone, ‘weaving ‘ carbon fibre into tubes of the exact shape, size and form required. According to BMc, LSW technology has made it possible to build a bike that not only provides highly efficient propulsion, but will also make even the longest endurance ride more enjoyable.
Shell Node Concept (SNC)
The carbon fibre braids that comprise the bike’s frame are wound into tubes in a specially developed robot-fed machine which guarantees the highest level of precision and the tubes are connected by newly developed shells to form a highly stable frame. These shells are made from ultra-lightweight, high-strength composite materials, comprising a high content of carbon fibres, to withstand extremely high loads at a minimum weight. They double up as a key design element which BMc has called the shell node concept (SNC), which also means that the Impec is visually distinct from any other racing bike.
“This weaving technology allows a degree of perfection which has never been possible before,” BMc says. Working closely with Huntsman Advanced Materials, BMc employed a high-end Araldite resin system in the composite layers which is injected into the loom to impregnate the braids.
Good temperature management is vital
BMc stresses that this is where good temperature management is vital – firstly to decrease the resin viscosity during the injection process and then immediately afterwards when the temperature needs to be raised quickly to speed up the cure as the Impec is extracted from the mould.
In order to meet all these requirements, the resin must have a low viscosity, short curing time and good fibre impregnation capability. In addition, it must be able to satisfy the mechanical properties required to ensure that the frame is tough, stiff and able to withstand shock without developing micro-cracks. The high-end Araldite resin system is said to fulfil all criteria.
Degree of precision that was previously unimaginable
“The innovation and passion behind the Impec puts it years ahead of the competition,” claims Andy Rihs, owner of BMc. “Our technology has allowed a degree of perfection that was previously unimaginable. The quantum leap is even visible to the naked eye in the cross-section of the tubing. Because Impec is made by machine, it’s the first truly flawless and most aesthetically pleasing racing bike in the world.”
To create the Impec, BMC built a new research, development and production centre where researchers worked for several years to develop a set of state-of-the-art manufacturing processes and technologies. Every single material and piece of equipment and all of the stages of the manufacturing process, were redesigned from scratch and all the key elements of the production process are patent protected.
Under the leadership of Andy Rihs, BMc has now constructed a new factory in the Swiss city of Grenchen to build the frames for the new flagship model. “Impec, unmodified, is the bike ridden by Team BMc at the Tour de France and on the ProTour. It meets the most exacting demands of reigning world champion Cadel Evans, and has stood the test of the toughest, longest stage race in the world. This bike is the ultimate high-end machine and will be available for sale to end customers this autumn,” says Rihs.
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