CW Blog

It’s a fact that the vast majority of bicycles sold in the US are made abroad. According to one source (, data from 2015), 99% of bicycles sold in the US were imported from China and Taiwan. So it was interesting to hear of bicycle manufacturer HIA Velo (Little Rock, AR, US), maker of carbon fiber bikes in the US, in-house, using a combination of composite materials to make their products more durable (the HIA in the company’s name denotes “Handmade in America”). The company recently introduced the brand name Allied Cycle Works, and its Alfa bicycle models.

The company began in early 2016, according to James Huang, global tech editor for bicycling blog and web site Cycling Tips ( ), when the founders bought the assets of a bankrupt Canadian bike manufacturer and brought everything to Little Rock. A team came together that included, in HIA Velo’s words, “…current and former bicycle racers, speed junkies, and enthusiasts. We love bicycles and are endlessly in the pursuit of…classic, strong, utilitarian design.” Founder Tony Karklins (who has since left the company) says in a recent LinkedIn article that the great advantage of producing bikes in-house is that you can communicate and implement design changes instantly: “Conventional wisdom in the bike industry says that carbon fiber bike manufacturing can only be accomplished in Asia. We think that’s ridiculous. Because our engineering team works on the factory floor, [we can] implement process improvements as needed and make constant improvement.” He adds that one of the challenges of dealing with Asian factories is the need to forecast up to two years ahead of when you need the product, and, if that product has a problem, you then have a warehouse full of that problem: “With domestic just-in-time manufacturing, we never have compromised product on hand and you always get our latest and best work.”

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TAHOE Boats (Springfield, MO, US), part of White River Marine Group (Springfield, MO, US), the marine manufacturing arm of Bass Pro Shops (Springfield, MO, US), has announced its new T16 boat design, an affordable lightweight design engineered with families in mind. The company claims the boat design was made possible in part by exploring innovative techniques never before before used in the marine industry.

White River worked with Thermwood Corp. (Dale, IN, US), utilizing Thermwood’s Large Scale Additive Manufacturing (LSAM) system to custom-print the tool used to manufacture the boat’s hull. According to TAHOE Boats, this is the first time 3D printing has been used on actual boat production at this scale. The company says the technology led to greater efficiency in the T16’s planning, design and construction.

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By: Karen Mason 10. January 2019

CFRP module saves weight on rocket design

“Ambitious” may be an understated characterization when it comes to the space industry’s goals for reducing the cost of space transport. A case in point, the US National Atmospheric and Space Administration (NASA, Washington, DC) reports that one of its aims is to reduce the cost of putting a payload into Earth orbit from $10,000/lb today to hundreds of dollars per pound within 25 years, and tens of dollars per pound within 40 years. Across the Atlantic, the goals are also lofty: the European Space Agency (ESA, Paris, France), for example, has stated its intent for the Ariane 6 rocket to match or beat the payload cost per kilogram of the  SpaceX (Hawthorne, CA, US) Falcon 9, estimated to be less than $7,500/kg for geosynchronous transfer orbit (where most satellites reside) and less than $3,000/kg for low Earth orbit.

It should come as no surprise, then, that rocket structural lightweighting is being pursued by numerous space industry organizations, or that composite materials are showcased in such efforts. Success in these pursuits depends initially on finding ways to achieve lightweighting goals while complying with standards already established for baseline metal components, including part geometry and thermo-mechanical properties.  

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I recently listened to a Freakonomics podcast where CEO Jim Hackett discusses his future vision for the Ford Motor Co. Host Stephen Dubner points out that while Ford has mocked electric vehicle (EV) upstart Tesla in its recent “Built Ford Proud” campaign, Hackett is basically pegging Ford’s future on selling its customers’ data.


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Bio-based resin systems are not new to composites manufacturing. In fact, bio materials have been used as feedstock in some resin systems for more than a decade, starting with soybean oil and corn ethanol used in unsaturated polyester and progressing to sugar cane, lignin, vegetable oils, glycerols and other plant-based biomasses. Such materials have been marketed primarily as greener alternatives to traditional hyrdrocarbon-based resins, designed to reduce the carbon footprint of the final product in which they are used. However, despite their wide availability, bio-based resins have struggled to displace their petroleum-based predecessors. That is starting to change, however, and evidence of this can be found in the automotive composites market.

This is where DSM Engineering Plastics (Geleen, The Netherlands) finds itself with its EcoPaXX PA 410, a bio-based polyamide that has been certified as carbon neutral, thanks in the main to its being 70% derived from the castor oil bean plant. This resin is available in a number of glass fiber- and carbon fiber-filled versions, as well as in a line of unidirectional (UD) tapes that are targeted toward automotive parts. The automotive environment is a good fit with the polymer’s high-temperature stability, enhanced hydrophobicity compared with other polyamides, and superior oil and chemical resistance.

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