Electric mountain bike frame

Aims

Working with the Bristol-based bike maker Starling Cycles and the National Composites Centre (NCC), we set out to create the first of a kind: a thermoplastic composite e-Bike frame that would be:

  • comparable to steel in performance yet much lighter
  • tougher than traditional composite frames (made from thermoset) and easier to repair and then recycle
  • manufactured using a more sustainable process than traditional composites
  • made entirely in the UK at a cost competitive with current imported sources, with high-volume production capabilities.

Until now, Starling Cycles has not used composites because of concerns over the quality of current thermoset bike frames and the perceived scrap rates. But with our help, the NCC proposed a potential solution that addressed these concerns.

Outcomes

This project achieved:

  • A fully assembled first-off bike, made of hard-wearing carbon fibre-nylon composites, joined without mechanical fixings or adhesives
  • 75% scrap reduction when compared to traditional composites, even at prototype (we expect to be able to reduce waste to around 1% in production)
  • Huge labour savings when compared with steel and traditional composites
  • Large weight-saving on steel
  • 25% reduction in global warming potential compared to traditional composites, even at prototype (we can reduce energy usage by up to 95% in production)
  • A composite frame truly suited to the circular economy
  • A viable UK-based alternative to manufacturing bike frames overseas, even at high volumes.

Outcomes

This project achieved:

  • A fully assembled first-off bike, made of hard-wearing carbon fibre-nylon composites, joined without mechanical fixings or adhesives
  • 75% scrap reduction when compared to traditional composites, even at prototype (we expect to be able to reduce waste to around 1% in production)
  • Huge labour savings when compared with steel and traditional composites
  • Large weight-saving on steel
  • 25% reduction in global warming potential compared to traditional composites, even at prototype (we can reduce energy usage by up to 95% in production)
  • A composite frame truly suited to the circular economy
  • A viable UK-based alternative to manufacturing bike frames overseas, even at high volumes.
"Thermoplastic carbon frames present a much less environmentally damaging solution for bike frames than epoxy-based carbon frames."
Joe McEwan
Founder of Starling Cycles

Other applications

The processes and technologies used in this project are suitable for manufacturing any tube-based structure, of almost any shape, with or without joints. They are particularly appropriate for products where mechanical performance, weight, environmental credentials and cost are important.

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Award-winning

Our technology has been recognised as world-leading. Working with a consortium of other manufacturing companies, we won two global innovation awards for the design of a very light rail carriage:

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