CW Blog

For an industry accustomed to years-long (if not decades-long) development cycles for new components, composites fabricators may find the timeline for a bicycle frame at Arevo (Milpitas, Calif., U.S.) quite remarkable. Wiener Mondesir, Arevo chief technical officer, reports that the company rolled out a demonstrator frame made from continuous carbon fiber/polyetheretherketone (PEEK) in May 2018; was approached by every major U.S. bicycle OEM shortly after; and launched into bike frame production in its new 20,000-square-foot facility in February 2019 — a span of just nine months. The bicycle industry is perhaps even more astounded: an Arevo frame for a battery-assisted “ebike” advanced from design to prototype in just 18 days, compared to 18 months for traditional composite bike frames.

The key to this short development cycle? Continuous fiber-reinforced 3D printing.

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By: Amanda Jacob 28. February 2019

Building confidence in recycled carbon fiber

Carbon fiber composites are valued for their potential to provide more sustainable transportation solutions with lower carbon emissions during use, yet the production and end-of-life phases of their lifecycle reveal a higher environmental impact than the metals they typically replace. Current carbon fiber composite production methods result in significant waste, little of which is recycled today. This will soon to be joined by high volumes of end-of-life products and today these waste streams would mostly end up in landfills. As carbon fiber composites use continues to grow and sustainability strategies push for “zero-waste-to-landfill,” routes to reclaiming and reusing this expensive resource are becoming more critical. It’s not an easy business to develop, but a small number of companies around the world have set out to tackle the technical and commercial challenges involved in establishing carbon fiber recycling operations. Among these companies is ELG Carbon Fibre (Coseley, U.K.), which runs a 1,500-metric tonne capacity plant in the U.K. and is now gearing up for global expansion.

ELG's first Technical Workshop, held at the University of Warwick (Coventry, U.K.) in 2018, brought together a number of the company’s academic partners and customers to share the latest research findings, to exchange experiences and to discuss knowledge gaps and potential road blocks to market growth.

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This blog is a follow-up to my February feature “Withstanding fire without the weight”. In my interviews for that article, three different resin suppliers/brands were mentioned: Ashland, Polynt and Scott Bader. I decided to follow up with these three companies to learn more.

Ashland’s most prominent resin for FR composites is MODAR, which stands for MODified Acrylic Resin. It is non-halogenated, but Ashland also offers Hetron halogenated polyester or vinylester products.

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Bicycle manufacturer HIA Velo (Little Rock, Ark., U.S.), founded in 2016, makes carbon fiber bikes in the U.S. (HIA means Handmade in America), without relying on the typical business model of overseas manufacturing. The company recently introduced the brand name Allied Cycle Works, as well as its Alfa bicycle models.

Sam Pickman, HIA Velo’s director of engineering, who came to the company from Specialized Bicycle Components, says, “Designing and making carbon fiber bikes involves compromises that you try to overcome. You must balance stiffness and handling with rideability, comfort and durability.” Allied Cycle Works’ Alfa frames are typically made with six plies of Mitsubishi Chemical Carbon Fiber & Composites Inc.’s (Irvine, Calif., U.S.) unidirectional carbon fiber prepreg, both 130-gsm standard modulus carbon and 110-gsm intermediate modulus carbon, prepregged with Mitsubishi’s Newport 301 epoxy resin and supplied in 1-meter-wide rolls. Pickman also reports that the company is investigating 114-gsm TeXtreme spread-tow woven material supplied by Oxeon (Boras, Sweden), as an alternative to unidirectional prepreg.

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The new year kicked off with a little-noticed headline from the South China Morning Post: China’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft to try historic landing on far side of moon between ‘January 1 and 3.’ Indeed, on Jan. 3,  the People’s Republic of China successfully completed the “try” with the first soft landing of a craft on the far side of the moon. Imagine how this event has captured the minds of young Chinese students — the wonder of their government making this attempt and the national pride of a successful mission. I am particularly stirred by the use of the word “try” in the periodical’s headline. It makes me wonder: Do we as a nation still try? Are risks allowed in our world today?

Let’s travel back 50 years to 1969,  the zenith of America’s space age. The year was preceded by the Christmas orbit of Apollo 8 around the far side of the moon. A scant seven months later, July 20, 1969, saw man’s first step on that very same surface. For those of us experiencing our formative years — and for me personally — the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs shaped not only a sense of national pride (and the importance to serve) but nearly all of my future interest in a career centered around science, technology, mathematics and engineering. Imagine the vision, the effort, the technical development that occurred from John Glenn’s first orbit of the Earth and that first step, seven years and seven months later. In 2019, we barely complete the technical specifications of a new aircraft system in that same period of time.

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