Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What's new

Let's see, he said as he stroked his chin. "Hmmmm.....

Now that the weather is warm, I'm working hard to catch up on my backlog. Carbon has been at the fore of my efforts as noted in the last post. Along these lines, I'm having some fun and showing great progress in a number of dimensions.

I've begun working with Edge Composites for tubing and rear triangles, and they're great. They'll build to my spec, and can turn around custom requests in pretty short order. A very simple example, I can now spec a tube a either plain uni-directional fiber, or any of several weaves of overweaves (from the traditional burlap look to the newer 12k checkerboard looks). So riders get a choice of aesthetics and performance. On the front triangle, plain uni carbon saves about 10% in weight, on the rear triangle it's closer to 20%. Not bad. But, for those who don't worry about fractions of an ounce, there is the option to choose their favorite fiber look. We can even turn the weaves on an angle for one more dimension of customization.

Speaking of rear-triangles, Edge molds the cable casing stop into the chain stay - so that eliminates holes and rivets - which is a good thing.

They've also provided their input into my plans for CF dropouts. This option is especially appealing to me for track frames where no one is manufacturing a carbon compatible dropout. That may be changing as there is another player getting ready to announce some super neat metal dropouts for CF rear triangles. I can't say any more for now, but I'm getting excited about that.

I've also been exploring various options for BBs and head tubes. Eventually, I think these will be pure CF, with the option for BB30 bottom brackets. In the meantime, I will shortly have some nice Ti BBs. These are thinner gauge metal than what you would see on a welded Ti bike, and will be reinforced by the CF over-wrap, rather than having that merely be a surface to which other tubes are bonded onto the BB. I think this will be lighter than my current wrapped Aluminum BBs, and have longer lasting threads. Plus, Ti resists electro chemical interactions with CF better than just about any other available metal. In a related move, I'm moving to CF head tubes with Ti rings bonded into each end. The Ti gets reamed and faced for the headset, but the CF tube provides the structure for the front end. Much less weight than a wrapped aluminum head tube, and again the chemical stability of Ti. So, all of these parts represent steps forward - and will help distinguish my CF frames from the run of the mill

On a different front, I've been constantly refining my vacuum bagging technique. It's easy to shove some parts in a bag, turn on the vacuum, and wait for them to cure. What gets tricky is maintaining the layers of wet CF in alignment and snuggly wrapped around the tube. A loose piece can easily create a bubble between layers that will become a source of failure. Even tricker is doing this in a manner where we get a nice smooth finish on the outside of the part. Many forms of vacuum bagging work against a mold - which is highly polished. The CF surface that lays against the mold (often with a layer of gel-coat between) is essentially finished when done.

I could create molds for my joints - some manufactures do. But, that limits the combinations of angles and tubing sizes I can use (either that or have a nearly infinite range of molds available).

Instead, I'm wrapping the joint with a layer of smooth plastic release layer. The plastic has small holes that allow excess epoxy to weep out into the bleeder felt. This layer of plastic has to be fashioned to follow the contours of the joint - so it doesn't wrinkle and cast the wrinkle into the epoxy. The bleeder felt also has to be arranged so as not to wrinkle. I've taken to fitting multiple pieces of felt to the joint - because it won't stretch to fit. Finally, it's important to arrange the 'bag' around the joint in a fashion similar to the release layer - again to avoid wrinkle. The net of practice is that my joints are coming out of the bag much better finished - and needing much less touch up before they're ready for paint. Cool.

Anyhow, thats enough words for tonight. See you next time.

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