European Carbon Manufacturer Rein4ced Aims to Replace Workers With Robots

Jul 26, 2019
by Richard Cunningham  

Rein4ced thermoplastc frames
TECH REPORT
Rein4ced Takes on Asia
Launches Large-Scale Frame Production in Belgium
Using Robots & New Carbon Technology
By: R. Cunningham
Rein4ced founders Photoshopped next to their new factory in Belgium: (left to right) Dave Luyckx (CPO), Niels De Greef (COO), and Michael Callens (CEO). Rein4ced photo


Rein4ced, a European start-up carbon manufacturer, hopes to employ automation and a new material process to put an end to the carbon industry's vicious cycle of cheap Asian labor, problematic end-of-use recycling, and to the parade of smoke-belching container ships that deliver bicycles by the millions to affluent Westerners located halfway around the globe.

For twenty years, carbon frames have been laid up by hand from "thermoset composites" - carefully cut strips of epoxy-impregnated carbon fiber spread over a flexible mandrel, then pressure cured in heated molds. Estimated man-hours for building a frame run from 20 to upwards of 30, and manufacturing is further hampered by the short useful life of unrefrigerated raw materials. All that adds up to a pricey finished product, but over time, bike makers have mastered the difficulties of the thermoset process, which has helped to keep MSRPs within reach of avid cycling enthusiasts.

Pivot Cycles carbon construction
Conventional carbon construction uses hundreds of pre-cut pieces of thermoset tapes which become sticky and pliable at room temperature. The pieces are hand wrapped around a frame-shaped mandrel, then tucked into a mold. The frame is then heated under pressure to cure and harden into its final shape. Pivot Cycles photo


The high prices of conventional thermoset materials is a global constant, but labor is not - a cold fact that has sent the cycling industry on a stepping-stone path in East Asia, uprooting and transplanting their carbon production from one developing industrial nation to another in the search for rock bottom prices for skilled workers. On one hand, Asian manufacturing makes sense because bicycle assembly takes place close to all of the major sources of components and frames, but that precludes the financial and environmental burdens of shipping final products to customers located thousands of miles away. It works, because the cycling industry has forced it to work, but a growing number of industrialists, including the folks at Rein4ced, believe there is a better way.

carbon thermoplastic story
Rein4ced's proof-of-concept production frame was manufactured using robots for the initial layup and a number of automated molding and preparation steps. Their factory production line will be almost completely automated. Rein4ced photo


Thermoplastic vs Thermoset Carbon

Same carbon, different matrix. One uses a two-component resin that catalyzes and cross-links when heated, the other uses a resin that is re-melted. If you want the college version of the story, read James Huang's excellent feature on the subject. Here's the short version:

Carbon fibers must be kept in alignment by some sort of plastic matrix to achieve their superior strength-to-weight properties. Two-component epoxy type thermoset plastics have been the go-to for decades because the viscous resins require heat to catalyze and harden, so they can easily be rolled and saturated into the fibers while maintaining the highest possible fiber density. The up-side of thermoset materials is that they are sticky and pliable, thus easy to shape and mold. The downside is that the moment the resin and catalyst components are mixed, the irreversible hardening reaction begins. To manage the time-sensitive nature of thermoset composite materials, the impregnated carbon must be freshly made, stored in freezers and used before a defined date.

Thermoplastic composites are made using single-component plastics which are re-melted and then rolled into the carbon fibers. That's a trickier process, because to ensure optimum strength, the fibers and less viscous plastic must be completely saturated and bonded to each other. The molding process is also more difficult, because pre-impregnated thermoplastic carbon is stiff and springy - properties that make it difficult, if not impossible, to apply using conventional hand lay-up methods.

Finally, the melting temperatures of thermoplastic resins are much higher than the curing temperatures of two-component types, and the molding process requires much higher pressures to achieve comparable strengths.

thermoplastic composite tape
Thermoplastic carbon composite material comes in rolls like thermoset pre-preg does, but thermoplastic is stiff, slick and more difficult to lay up by hand. Barrday Composite Solutions photo

The up-sides of thermoplastic composites, however, are tantalizing: unlimited storage life at room temperatures; the resins are non-toxic when handled; the materials can be easily recycled or re-purposed; and the slightly more malleable nature of the high-strength thermoplastic resins (polyetheretherketone "PEEK," polyetherketoneketone "PEKK," polyaryletherketone "PAEK") specifically developed for the process result in exceptional impact resistance and a safer failure mode.

In case you've been sleeping for twenty years, impact resistance and a safe failure mode are two unicorns that have successfully eluded cycling's carbon manufacturers since day one. "Why then," you may ask, "have they failed to use this wonderful new technology?"

GT LOBO
GT produced a number of thermoplastic carbon bikes in the early '90s - the LTS and this bike, the Lobo. K2 Bike also tried its hand with the material.


We did, and so did the aerospace industry. Back in the '90s, GT, K2 bike (I even tried it) joined high-tech giants in the race to make high-performance thermoplastic composite structures, but the materials were not up to par, and conventional wisdom did not lend itself to create designs that would better suit the process. Fast forward to the present, however, and it's a different world. Environmental concerns and manufacturing efficiency have pushed the technology to fruition. Airbus and Boeing are both using automated systems to build aircraft components with thermoplastic composites, and closer to home, US builder Guerrilla Gravity has started to make thermoplastic composite mountain bikes using a semi-automated process. No surprise then, that an entrepreneur like Rein4ced would take the plunge and invest in a full-scale manufacturing facility.

carbon thermoplastic story
Rein4ced's carbon process begins with an array of thermoplastic strips, placed and in layers by robots with their fibers oriented to counter stress. Layers are "tacked" in place with heat and pressure. In a second operation, the fibers are melted together in a powerful press, which shapes frame components into matching halves. Rein4ced photo


Rein4ced Has Big Plans

Rein4ced was recently founded by Dave Luyckx (CPO), Niels DeGreef (COO), and Michaël Callens (CEO), based around a hybrid thermoplastic composite material which has fine steel fibers interlaced with the pre-impregnated carbon. Reportedly, the hybrid material was conceived by Professor Ignaas Verpoest (KU Leuven) and later brought to market by co-founder Michaël Callens, who earned his PhD studying the concept under Verpoest. Key to the startup bike maker, the addition of steel fibers to thermoplastic-based carbon reportedly provides a significant increase the impact resistance and adds a margin of survivability in the event of a frame failure that conventional carbon manufacturers can only dream of. Rein4ced is so confident that they advertise that their frames are "unbreakable."

Rein4ced's three-fold plan for their new manufacturing facility in Leuven, Belgium, begins with their patented hybrid thermoplastic composite. Second to that is their decision to produce high-end frames in Europe, where they can avoid EU tariffs and shipping costs, and also communicate with one of the world's most concentrated cycling marketplaces in the same time zone.

carbon thermoplastic story
Rein4ced will not divulge any details about its automated process, but it's not a stretch to say the molded parts are trimmed with a CNC-machining center before they are assembled into a mold where additional strips of thermoplastic tapes are placed where needed and melted to wed the frame components together. Because thermoplastic composites can be re-melted, the process lends itself to modular frame construction. Rein4ced photo


About those robots: Third? No secret that the cost of labor in Europe alone would defeat plans to manufacture carbon frames using conventional methods. Aside from saving money, the elevated melt temperatures thermoplastic composites require (340°C to 390°C) creates a risk hazard. Rein4ced is banking on an automated layup and molding system that is expected to crank out 20,000 frames per year by 2020 and as their production ramps up, they project those numbers will substantially increase. Considering that this is a relatively new and largely unproven technology to cycling, those are very optimistic goals, but it could happen.

Elon Musk overturned the automobile industry's stagnant manufacturing model armed with optimistic goals, new and largely unproven technology, and automated production. If Rein4ced is only half as successful as its founders project it will be, the lessons learned are sure to re-ignite the dwindling imaginations of cycling's conventional thermoset carbon makers who, with few exceptions, have been stuck in a rut for nearly a decade.




INTERVIEW: Rein4ced CEO Michaël Callens


Tell us more about Rein4ced's steel/carbon material. Is it exclusive to you and is it produced in conventional pre-preg tapes?


It is exclusive, patented by Rein4ced and the exact composition and materials are kept confidential. We don’t use the conventional prepreg tapes, but we work with high-end thermoplastic tapes.

What is the difference in density between traditional thermoset high modulus carbon and the Rein4ced's hybrid material? What does that mean in terms of the weight of a bike frame with identical wall thicknesses?


We redesign the lay-up from the ground up to make maximum use of the hybrid steel/carbon material. In many cases, carbon bikes need to implement certain safety factors and therefore have to be over-designed to ensure that they won’t break. Because of our much more damage resistant material, we can use less material in those critical zones and target high performance with similar weight as high-end carbon frames.

How far along is Rein4ced's production readiness? Has the process been successfully automated yet?


Several commercial prototypes have already been successfully manufactured using the automated manufacturing technique. Currently, we are setting up the full production line capable of manufacturing high volumes (up to 20,000 frames) in-house and before the end of this year, all equipment should be installed and ready to start.

The press-release video suggests that the robots will eventually be doing all the work. Will Rein4ced still be employing workers to complete molding and heat curing the parts, and then hand finishing after the initial robotic layups are complete?


Our initial ambition has always been to have as little human interaction as possible during actual production steps. Some parts have a very high level of complexity and performance demand. In order to manufacture these parts with a consistent result, we are robotizing as many steps as possible. Initially we have opted to still have some operators involved for taking semi-finished parts out of equipment A and transporting it to equipment B. This allows for a quick intermediate quality inspection because this is where human skills are no match for any high-tech equipment currently available.

What are some advantages to using thermoplastic type composites?


Production can go much faster, we work in a more clean environment (no chemistry involved), and scrap material is recycled in dropouts [and other small parts].

Who invented the material, and who developed the automated process?


The idea for using steel fibres in composites came from Professor Ignaas Verpoest (KU Leuven), under whose supervision CEO Michaël Callens did his PhD on this material (2010 - 2014). Rein4ced was founded in 2015 where further work was done on the development of lightweight hybrid composites. This new hybrid material was patented by Rein4ced. The manufacturing process (a new construction method / way of building a bicycle frame) was developed by Rein4ced, and is based on state-of-the-art equipment developed for automotive and aerospace applications.

At what level will your first production be targeted: mid-priced, enthusiast level, pro level?


High-end bicycles for all target groups. We are taking full advantage of the high accuracy placement of the material and high quality process. This gives us the opportunity to build frames with the exact requirements the designers and engineers of the brands we are working with; be it comfort or aggressive racing performance. Their ideas and concepts can be translated immediately into real products using our material and manufacturing process.
carbon thermoplastic story
Nothing wasted: The excess which is trimmed from each part can be sliced, or ground into chips, and then re-molded into other parts like linkage rockers and dropouts. Rein4ced photo

Will Rein4ced's facility also finish-machine, paint, decal and otherwise deliver sell-ready frames to its customers?


Rein4ced will manufacture directly for bicycle brands. We are opening a whole new set of possibilities for their designers and engineers to work with and this will hopefully lead to “better” products for their customers: the bike enthusiasts. Their frames will [arrive] ready to paint, unless otherwise requested.

Will costs be on par, less than, or greater than Asian competitors?


Straight from the factory, the frames will be more expensive. We will be offering a product with much higher performance potential and a much higher level of quality consistency. We will be able to limit the variations in production, something which is inherent to the current manual production in Asia. End consumers will be able to experience the ride quality and bike handling as it was originally designed and engineered by the brand.




bigquotesMuch of Rein4ced's success will depend upon whether or not they can deliver both the quantity and the performance that their PR promises. While that remains to be seen, their courage to move forward with an alternative carbon material and process is going to be watched closely by everyone who is presently in the carbon game. Large-scale frame manufacturing in Europe? Pro-quality, cost-competitive product? An unbreakable failure mode? Those are big checks to cash. Manufacturers who struggled to build the first thermoset carbon frames, however, faced the same pessimism, so I'm going to wish them luck and take a wait and see approach. A lot of good can come from this.RC


More information on Rein4ced here. Lots of thermoplastic composite information here.




190 Comments

  • + 212
 Glad to hear that robots are getting more high-end jobs. It's not easy to raise a family of robots on regular robot pay. Humans have been exploiting robots and paying them slave wages for too long.
  • + 20
 lay up technicians don't get paid that much...hard to call it a "high-end" job.
  • + 6
 @patdinho: not a high end job in any fashion whatsoever
  • + 35
 @ace9: It's good work if you're a robot.
  • + 6
 @patdinho: They are high end jobs in those parts of Asia where they live.
  • + 9
 @hamncheez: are they unpaid internships in the USA?
  • + 36
 I have been to a museum in Poland lately, a silver mine closed 100 years ago. The guide showed us tunnels being dug by teenagers, because they were shorter than adults. And the lifts and air pumps operated by younger siblings of those teenagers. Their parents working in twilight of twinkling candles, burning whale oil, filling their lungs with smoke. They were digging up ore composed of led and silver. None of them did Yoga or Crossfit, they ate lots of gluten. Then most of these good, God fearing people lost their jobs, because some German a*shole brought a steam engine from Cardiff, better tools and mined everything out within 10 years!

Diy’tk,R’jaaaaaaeb!!!
  • + 8
 @endlessblockades When humanity is exterminated in the rise of the machines, you will be spared.
  • + 11
 @WAKIdesigns: to be fair they didn't need a job for more than about 15 years.
  • + 11
 @BenPea: I said it the other way around. Their food was GMO free and they were exercising at work so they did not need to go to Yoga or Crossfit. Big pharma wasn’t stuffing them with antibiotics and opioids, they didn’t eat much meat and were on intermittent fasting. Basically most of people back then were sponsored athletes. How could we get it all wrong these days...
  • + 9
 But who’s building the robots?
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: I got that, but life expectancy don't lie. What was it btw? I have no idea. You went to the museum God damn it, we want facts!
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: f***ing Germans. They're always up to something..
  • + 3
 I made good money for a while maintaining robots before moving into the utility sector
  • + 2
 @skelldify: Only a matter of time before robots will be able to build better robots. Singularity is near.
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: Dey tuck er jebs!
  • + 8
 @BenPea: they were dying young and happy and nobody needed to post [*] on their feed. They were missed inside. Everything was better back then. Marzocchi Z0 running on whale oil and trails were all natural
  • + 1
 @skelldify: mind blown
  • + 6
 There is a really nice book from Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams called "Inventing the future, Postcapitalism and a World Without Work":

In the book the authors go through some of the global trends they see in labour like: the precarity of the developed economies' working class intensifying due to a surplus global labour supply, slum populations growing due to automation of low-skilled service work, transformation of higher eduction into job training hastened in a deperate attempt to increase the supply of high-skilled workers etc...

But in a smart move the authors instead of choosing the old reformative option of stopping these changes (which they think is very hard to) they form four minimal demands to suggest a more sustainable economic future and to push the current form of capitalism to a quicker death:
1.(Demand) Full Automation;
2.(Demand) The reduction of the working week;
3.(Demand) The provision on the basic income;
4.(Demand) The diminishment of the work ethic.

I am sure to some this may seem like a utopic non-sense, but a big portion of their arguments will fall very easily in a pragmatic analysis of where we are now as a society and how our economies work in a global scale.

I believe tbh that there are certain jobs that no-one should do at this point of humanity's history for example laying carbon in a repetitive motion for 12hours/day in a probably hazardous factory only for their kids to be -maybe- in a slighlty better position in the future. If these people could do this for 2-hrs with some help of robots, have a decent salary and then time to spent with their families, our world would be much better!

Long comment I know, but it's not an easy issue nor one to tackle with smart humourous phrases. We need to find ways to make these technologies work on our behalf rather than against us.
  • + 4
 @deagle8747: reduction of the working week is already happening in several sectors in Sweden. Most people at my 100 people strong office work no more than 80% and quite a lot on flex hours. It is either about having kids or other interests. Employer seems to be happy about it too. Partly because people are happier this way but also from perspective of effectivity and reliability. People who work 6-7h a day, 32-36h a week have less of the “morning start up” period and tend to bonk later in the afternoon. Then the State and unions have regulations on mental health, and if you burn out your employee, you will pay heavily for it. The Standard procedure is 1 month off and then 1month at 50%, then 1 month at 75-80%.

Sure there are douchebags exploiting it bit they are few and at least at my work if anyone did that a few times with smug smile, they would be socially excluded in various ways.
  • + 2
 @deagle8747: I know - the virtual end of human labor *should* be the best thing that ever happens to us. But it won't be if we don't change our system. The 4 steps you list are pretty reasonable, really.
  • + 4
 @pinhead907: humans are not made for doing nothing. It all sounds super cool and equalitarian but on a scale of hundreds of years, we will not adapt fast enough to deal with lack of labor and hardship. For hundreds of thousands of years we have been evolving into apex predators capable of dealing with changing weather conditions, finding food, protecting ourselves against beasts that can attack anytime anywhere, see our children being torn apart by a bear, carrying super heavy loads for tens of miles, for weeks. Only to need to fight with other humans.

There is enough psychological evidence showing that epidemic of depression is due to lack of hardship. We are all better off now, no doubt about it, but in post scarcity economy we will have it harder and harder to find meaning to our lives.
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: I think we can find new endeavors, and further, I doubt we'll literally reach the complete end of human labor. But, we must restructure the economy so that Jeff bezos and 4 or 5 of his friends don't end up owning literally everything.
  • + 0
 @BenPea: Life expectancy thing is a crock when you take Child Mortality out of the equation. If you made it past your childhood even during the Dark Ages in Western Europe (Eastern Europe under the Roman Empire aka Byzantium did quite well), you would life a reasonable length of life.

Now days in the modern era 21st century style, we seem to be going backwards.

Now, where can my friend Bender apply for a job in one of these new fa-dangled Carbon Factories??
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: absolutely perfectly stated
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: thats a double negative. police in the house
  • + 2
 @gnarterrorist: I’d need to see your stats on general mortality in middle ages, especially among males. I am pretty sure very few people lived beyond their 40s.
  • + 2
 @pinhead907: there are too many things that need to happen before/if we get into post scarcity. Like dramatic fall in population of the Earth. In a non catastrophic scenario that will take hundreds of years. Not to mention space exploration and here human lives are simply too short. Life as we know it, may be limited in its possibilities to develop on Earth as pretty much everything that can come out of our Solar System is limited to our Galaxy, which according to laws of physics is the final frontier. Nothing will ever leave Milkymeda. The Pace of development is too slow for anything with no FTL tech
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: waki over here dropping truth bombs.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: This is very true and I'd be shocked if certain minds weren't focusing on this exact outcome.
  • + 3
 @BenPea: raid Area 51! Or raid Specialized headquarters - they cannot sue us all!
  • + 34
 Sounds very similar to GG's Revved carbon, interesting. Either way, more carbon made somewhere that's not China and is recyclable is a good thing IMHO.
  • + 4
 Yes! Time to bring American jobs back to Belgium where they belong!
  • + 1
 Where did it say it is recyclable.? Also, if heat (energy) is required to recycle it, still not any more environmentally friendly. And I assume the amount of energy to recycle a material that resilient is ALOT?
  • + 1
 @bizutch: Paragraph that starts with "The Upsides" about halfway through the article
  • + 1
 @maxyedor: I made the mistake of posing this question twice about the article. I should be more clear. When a company charging an exorbitant amount of money for something they're selling says "it's recyclable", that doesn't really pass the smell test.
It's like a a company telling us their employees have a safe and/or work environment. Then OSHA or someone like ISA, ISO, etc come in and inspect the place and they can't even pass the most basic inspection.

Unless there is some outside organization that certifies the sustainability of their practices, it's just a sales pitch. Clean, useful and efficient recycling that doesn't generate more waste from energy consumption, byproduct production and pollution from off-gassing, waste & particulate poisons when you're talking about mixing carbons, plastics & steel? There is a lot of magic in the world...but get real.
  • + 30
 Wait, didn’t guerrilla gravity come up with a made in the USA system that was cheaper and less labour intensive - without robots? I’d like my bike make by person, even though I acknowledge that automation would likely mean more consistent product quality. Old fashion sentiments I guess. Go GG!
  • + 31
 no, they are definitely using automation. one of the reasons they are able to product in the US and sell the bikes at the price they do.
  • + 7
 this smacks of skynet. now where did I leave my tinfoil hat...
  • + 14
 GG frames are even often cheaper than asian made frames. I'd guess they undercut "boutique" brands by around $1000 for a stronger frame.

Maybe GG needs to contract out frame making to some other bands?
  • + 0
 @captainderp: They have a couple CNC machines, that’s nothing like what this company is proposing.
  • + 38
 @Rucker10: Very cool to see what these guys are doing across the pond using similar materials advancements. We use a mix of carbon layup automation, CNC machines, and some heavy-metal human machine operators, all of which work together to make the other 66.6% of a bike frame.
  • + 6
 @Rucker10: yes, there are definite differences between the approach to manufacturing both companies are taking. but in interviews in pinkbike (and elsewhere) it has been clearly stated by GG themselves that a portion of their layup process is automated, and has resulted in approximately an 80% decrease in labor time.
  • + 4
 @GuerrillaGravity: I bought one of your frames because I'm a machinist, and I really appreciate that you're employing folks like me to do that job. I think it's cool what this company intends to do, but I think it's wrong to imply that the reason they're able to move manufacturing from China back to the western world is because of automation. I think it has a lot more to do with tradesmen getting better and starting to take an avid interest in process improvement.
  • + 2
 @Rucker10: Well thats just plain wrong. I'm surprised @GuerrillaGravity didn't correct you on this.
They have a different manufacturing process, and use their own process for curing (higher heat etc.) which means they are using a different curing and taping process. So I think its safe to say that its a BIT more than a "couple CNC machines".
  • + 7
 @conv3rt: try a carbon hat, they are lighter, stiffer and less prone to crumpling (also more expensive)
  • + 2
 @Upduro: haha, but can you bake a potato in one?
  • + 4
 Guerrilla Gravity also saves money by having very few molds- the main carbon triangle shared across all their bikes, and the head tube is very ovalized allowing much larger reach adjust headsets, and most of their sizing changes is just swapping the offset headset back and forwards.
  • + 8
 who cares who it's made by? I like my shit made optimally (meaning most efficient economically. environmentally and resource-wise.) Best for me, best for the company, best for the planet. Whatever gets us closer to the perfect balance is fine by me. The market will adjust - people will work on the robots that make shit instead of the assembly line, more people will invest in the technology. Small business will start using it, etc.
  • + 1
 @trialsracer: That makes too much sense to become anything close to a reality. And that's without factoring in any non-G20 countries. I genuinely believe that only about 10% of the world's population will still exist by the time anything really intelligent happens, because that's how long this tanker will take to turn.
  • + 27
 If you could teach robots to mountain bike you would have a self sustaining industry!
  • + 3
 It's just a matter of time. You too will be assimilated.
  • + 5
 It has already begun. I fear it's only a matter of time before we're all out of a hobby.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT3vfSQePcs
  • + 6
 @dlxah: 2.6" ain't dead!
  • + 2
 I'm pretty sure the Fest guys and the French DH racers are cyborgs, and/or from another planet. Hard to tell...
  • + 18
 So it costs less to produce because, robots. But it will be more expensive to buy, because greed?
  • + 3
 The market will correct the greed. (see: your local trailhead with at least 2 YT's in it at all times)
  • + 1
 Yeah because all those greedy people in the bike industry are getting super rich off of all of us.

I'd guess the price will be high because they've spent 4 years developing their manufacturing process and that research doesn't come cheap. R&D is expensive.
  • + 2
 build your own automated bike manufacturing company.
  • + 1
 More expensive out of the factory, but no shipping cost and no import taxes. So cheaper for the end user. But not by much i guess.
  • + 12
 "hopes to ... put an end to the ... vicious cycle of cheap Asian labor ... and to the parade of smoke-belching container ships that deliver bicycles by the millions"

Cool! Now do cars, iphones and bananas please.
  • + 9
 And then all of a sudden, 60% of the Pinkbike commenters are aerospace engineers.
  • + 7
 I feel mixed. This technology looks amazing, can’t wait for it to propagate and love the ingenuity. On the other hand this further signifies the impending robot future devoid of workers.
  • + 1
 I'm all for it. Unskilled labourers will always find work elsewhere, in service or other labour intensive industries. If we can reduce carbon emissions from shipping goods across the world, while keeping some key highly skilled engineering jobs local, why not?
  • + 17
 @drakefan705: Going to need a universal basic income if you want to avoid a nasty revolution.

I'm all for carbon emission reduction but also, what to do with all of those displaced workers. Complicated issue.
  • + 16
 Very unlikely to happen. People have been bemoaning the impending "end of labor" since the dawn of industrialization.
Most of the time automation just means that humans can focus on the stuff humans are good at and leave the rest to machines.

The important part is to provide safety nets and opportunities for people to switch tasks, and to somewhat evenly redistribute the wealth gained from automated production.
  • + 1
 @drakefan705: you're right. I said something similar. I will probably get downvoted too. Oh well.
  • + 3
 @Ttimer: well, and every industrial revolution has killed more jobs than it has created, while the amount of humans doesn't stop growing, leaving a path of ever-cheapening labour.

You're last paragraph sounds perfect, the only issue with it is that's never gonna happen.
  • + 0
 I mean, someone still has to build, ship, install, create materials for the robots... Loss of jobs due to automation is a made-up problem.
  • + 1
 @skelldify: robots get better every day and humans stays the same. The crushing blow will be when AI becomes reality.
  • + 1
 A world without work/workers but everything we need provided is utopia no?
  • + 2
 @kiksy: yes, Eutopia. But it’s the method of transition towards that future that is uncertain and troublesome.
  • + 1
 @cyrways: absolutely
  • + 9
 I, for one, would like to welcome our new thermoplastic robot overlords.
  • + 3
 Yeah I know I'm on, and I don't care! I don't read the news until I get my Danish!
  • + 10
 Dey Terk Err Jerbs
  • + 5
 “Whether we are based on carbon or on silicon makes no fundamental difference; we should each be treated with appropriate respect.”
― Arthur C. Clarke, 2010: Odyssey Two
  • + 4
 I love how over a decade the marketing that drives the industry was able convince average Joes that carbon is the ultimate bicycle material. Move all production overseas all while increasing prices. Brilliant. Hope to see more large scale NA and Euro built frames again.
  • + 3
 BMC tried the same and they failed. They invested more then 40 Mio USD into a fully automated carbon factory in switzerland for the impec program.

cyclingiq.com/2015/12/12/road-to-impeccable-bike-proves-impassable-for-bmc
  • + 1
 They used conventional duromer thermosetting epoxy, however. But top notch automation and staff. I am quite sceptic having a composite background since childhood if rein4ced can meet their ambitious goals. Automotive and aerospace industry would be fools to have overlooked their advancements.....
  • + 3
 Todays bike manufacturers barely use existing cfrp technology to its full potential (sandwich lay-up, different heat and pressur zones in the autoclave, real high end fibers and not just made up fancy product names) because of cost so even if todays bikes are that expensive, dentists unwilling to pay 15000$ for a frameset are holding us back.
  • + 3
 The interviewer failed to ask obvious questions about why they think the bike industry is a good place for a company with a new composite manufacturing technology is a good place to start. Why not aircraft or tennis rackets? Also what is the business model, are they making and selling their own bikes or doing contract manufacturing? Selling 20,000 of a new brand of bikes and building the distribution infrastructure seems like a big ask for a university spin-off.
  • + 2
 Did sound very much like they were looking to be contract manufacturers.

I did also wonder why they came to conclude why bikes was the best place to start. Maybe they're roadies? Anyway, good for us.
  • + 2
 @Ktron: I fear they are first and foremost university technology spin-off people
  • + 6
 Will Smith warned us of this.
  • + 5
 Humans will always have jobs unless robots learn how bitch and moan on blogs
  • + 2
 In about 20 years Boston dynamics will make a robot better at riding bikes than us, then the youth of the day will watch there yt robot doing gopro runs from the safety of home on an oculus rift...... I can here them now arguing online my robots sicker than yours...
  • + 6
 I h8 alpha-numeric branding.
  • + 6
 All this or you could just make bikes out of metal :-/
  • + 1
 I live in Hamilton Ontario Canada...a major Steel producer now sorta...make bikes Steel again and make em in Canada or the United States...a good wage and an honest set of shareholders and Board of directors and give us a product we dont have to repurchase every 5 years....one we can ride and update
  • + 1
 If I'm not mistaken, there are few examples of successful, commercial recycling of carbon fiber composites made with thermoplastic resins. So I'm not convinced that the supposedly easy recycling and re-purposing will transpire.
  • + 2
 They're using thermoplastic composites. You're thinking of traditional cured thermoset composites.
  • + 1
 @slovenian6474: No, I'm thinking of thermoplastic composites. It doesn't mean that they're theoretically recyclable that it's practical. If you know of examples to prove otherwise, please share.
  • + 2
 @cedrico: TenCate's TPC-Cycle is one example.
  • + 1
 @slovenian6474: Interesting. However, their suggested recycling method involves chopping up thermoplastic composite parts that have continuous fibers and remolding, so there is a loss of functionality because of the chopping. Metals don't have this disadvantage, and I think proponents of thermoplastic composites should make it clear to consumers that recyclability is not on par with metals.
  • + 1
 Yeah I think everybody is more concerned with making money than recycling the stuff and doing the right thing. The amount of energy and heat that would be needed, let alone labor to reconstitute this material into something useful all while not generating a ton of waste to do it? It is so improbable. I'm pretty sure that Humanity has reached the point of utter stupidity that that isn't the very first thing we point out about this crap.
  • + 1
 @cedrico: Sure but that's very similar to what they're talking about in this article. It's not that far fetched.

@bizutch: TenCate's projects have been to show that it CAN be economically viable and they've done that.
  • + 1
 @slovenian6474: I think we all know that the people selling the stuff shouldn't be the ones telling us it's economically viable.

Especially in instances where the product is getting more expensive each time. Doesn't really pass the smell test of ethics.
  • + 1
 @bizutch: GKN was also involved. I usually go by data rather than smell. YMMV.
  • + 2
 @slovenian6474: abbreviations mean what ???
  • + 1
 @bizutch: Your mileage may vary.
  • + 1
 Rein4ced: We will use carbon composites pre blenden in termo kriptonite and a bunch of T800 will do all the job to made the best frame of the history in europe bla bla bla !

Journalist: How much will cost each of those frames?

Rein4ced: 10K!
  • + 4
 Robots will be the death of us all! We'll all be serving coffee for a living, in 10 years...
  • + 5
 what about e bike battery factory tour??
  • + 1
 It'd be a good test for the new filters that PB have implemented Smile
  • + 4
 I will still walk up hills
  • + 4
 Mad respect for walking it up the hill and not giving into the electric moped scene
  • + 3
 @pinnityafairy: a guy I ride with regularly is 75 years old, Im ok with him using an electric .. but Ill have to wait another 20 years !!!!!!
  • + 1
 @60ndown: I did a 25 mile road ride with a senior. 90° and 20 mile an hour average speed all compliments of his specialized e-bike which he loves and gets him around. He had fun and so did I. His bike however went into some type of safety over temperature mode and we had to slow down LOL the levo was unable to keep up with the analog bike
  • + 4
 I for one welcome our new robot overlords
  • + 3
 ooh... deal breaker for us riders! ..."the frames will be more expensive"...
  • + 1
 Sounds like it could be a double edged sword though. Frame is a bit more expensive to the design co., but if their claims are true and quality is higher and more consistent then we may not see much increase in the finished bike price. Especially if you’re shipping it from Europe rather than Asia
  • + 0
 GT and Thermosetplastic in the early 90,s ??? You sure about that RC ??? Giant had the Cadex bikes in the early to mid 90,s . The GT,s where mid to late 90,s and they where used on the LTS and LOBO frames. Prior to that it was the LTS and they where all aluminum.
  • + 2
 Sounds great! This kind of automation creates high paying and skilled jobs. Someone has to engineer, build, and maintain the equipment.
  • + 2
 "Someone has to engineer, build, and maintain the equipment."

Why "someone"? Robots will eventually do that too.
  • + 3
 Yeah robot engineers ... Management robots ...marketing robots ..venture capitalists and share holders happy though
  • + 4
 @nick1957: what about venture capitalist robots? Shareholding robots? Why should robots be denied the right to share in the wealth they create?

Robots.
  • + 1
 Sorry. I'll stick with my hand welded Nicolai/Geometron. Might look like a welded tank & a bit pricey for Al, but such a blast to ride without worry of scratches and dings.
  • + 3
 This is cool. More consistent quality is always better! I think this is the same process that GG is using but in America
  • + 1
 This is inevitable; actually amazed it’s taking so long to fully automate given that far more complex machinery such as cars are largely robot built and have been for decades.
  • + 1
 aluminium bikes are often welded by robots. Carbon has more parts, so it's more complex and you need more robots. And if I understand this article, it's a different process. I'm not an expert but I would'nt be surprised if the carbon parts that are made by robots outside bike industry are simpler than a mtb bike to make with robots.
  • + 1
 CFRP automation is a hard and nowhere near as easy as metal fab bots. I have seen a planned lay up automation bot and it is a very big deal (automotive), not sure what these folks are planning but sounds fun, good luck to them.
  • + 2
 Having worked with it in the past, Polyether-Ether-Ketone (PEEK) is the bee’s knees. Might convince me to go for a carbon bike. Stuffs expensive though.
  • + 3
 Unbreakable huh.

Will someone please call Nathan Rennie?
  • + 1
 "Rein4ced is so confident that they advertise that their frames are "unbreakable.""

Can I bike from Brussels with my hammer and try it out?
  • + 3
 When a robot makes a robot to make a robot where does that leave Robert?
  • + 2
 Out riding his bike
  • + 2
 Probably at home spanking to vr robotic porn until he/she/it is so devoid of pleasure seeking behaviour that they turn grey, vegetative and subsequently commit motionless suicide by shear mental will alone.
  • + 3
 Yeah, stick it to those Chinese carbon workers.
  • + 3
 Man, I would love GT to reissue the STS but with modern geo
  • + 2
 So what does this mean for me as a budget minded bike consumer?

Or should I just carry on as before....
  • + 1
 I'm surprised weight will be comparable as the multi-part mould process looks like it will have to be lugged in many places.
  • + 3
 Treks frames are all lug built and bonded. No one complains that their frames are heavy. I believe they had an Emonda that was sub 10lbs. The benefit of bonded frames and tubes is that you can control compaction and layup to a higher degree than you can with a closed molded bladder compacted frame. Watch Raoul Luescher's YouTube to see how bad close molded bladder frames typically are.
  • + 1
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: I nearly mentioned OCLV but I wasn't sure if they still used lugged construction. I get what you're saying about the voids etc in moulded frames but surely one of the benefits of the composites is the distribution of material across the frame without unnecessary excesses like the overlaps in lug construction? I can't help but think that such frames wouldn't have the best ride characteristics either. Imagine a surfboard or racing sailing dingy hull that had three or four lateral sections that were bonded together. It would definitely be sub optimal.
  • + 2
 @jclnv: sailing dingies? I mean my laser is bonded together all sorts of goofy ways, not to mention the hull is only like 1mm thick in some areas. Most boats are bonded hull and deck with open layup and little to no vacuum bagging. I thought most small boats were bagged, but through conversations with manufacturers I found out that vacuum bagging doesn't necessarily guarantee less voids on larger layups. One company I visited used an air hammer to compact the composite after the bag was under vacuum to force air bubbles out of the layup.

Also, the Sail GP boats can be broken down to fit in a standard 40' iso and they use removable hull sections to make them fit.

A lot of masts are multiple sections that sleeved too due to manufacturing constraints, that's where predictable bending is critical for sail shape.

I believe that lugging and bonding is probably pretty predictable for ride characteristics, you want tubes to generally be thicker on the ends and the high stress areas are primarily where the tubes are joined. If you have more control over the compaction and resin saturation then you likely can remove mass from the less critical areas in the tubes.
  • + 0
 @BikesBoatsNJeeps: Interesting stuff re the sail boat hulls. I just love dingy and small racing sailboats. The most beautiful, purposeful things humans have invented IMO. It's odd to me that vacuum bagging isn't totally effective. I've used one to apply veneer to substrates when woodworking and it's far better than physical clamping.

I get your point about removing material from the centre tube sections but you could compromise impact resistance in those more prone to damage areas. I really don't know as I'm no composite engineer but it just doesn't seem optimal and looks to me like they're mainly going down the thermoplastic route for cost (labour) not performance reasons.

Cheers!
  • + 1
 @jclnv: No argument about impact resistance. My Trek Boone's top tube is so thin in sections that it flexes considerably with just hand pressure. On bikes like the Emonda SLR the downtube feels sketchy thin near the bottle bosses, you can see it deflect 2mm+ if you squeeze it hard enough. In general mountain bikes are built heavier, and have impact resistant layers, but remember how Minnars bike broke into pieces when it impacted that pole mid frame.
Yeah racing dingies are pretty rad. Being sort of singular in purpose, so optimization doesn't really matter, what's important is the sailor. To win in a class like the Laser, you remove all of the 2% stiffer for 2020! 3% better flow! Instead you get a bunch of people sailing supposedly equal boats with the only difference being fitness and decision making. It really removes the equipment from thr equation. (To some extent at least)
  • + 0
 Pole bikes / Leo Kokkonen: use your CNC to make some molds of your (gorgeous) Stamina to these guys. Oh, and shorten the chainstays to 445 mm please Wink
  • + 0
 So before, plastic bikes were laid up by a 14yr old Asian girl in a surgical mask, but now they're laid up by robots............ progress - or so they say.
  • + 2
 Looks just like the Revel Bikes logo....
  • + 1
 So, does this mean it will bring down the cost of carbon frames and components? If not, then meh.
  • + 1
 Support your local Human work force.
  • + 1
 GT Lobo DH was in the late 90's....not early 90's
  • + 1
 @monkey01313: Yes, but GT began their thermoplastic production in 1993.
  • + 1
 The title of this article could use some work lol
  • + 1
 So they have a mould for a third of a bike frame?
  • + 0
 More profits for bike companies, more expensive frames for us! Yay for robots!
  • + 1
 Thanks a lot Miles Bennett Dyson
  • + 0
 Well, I am not interested in carbon frames and parts so I this is just some news to me.
  • + 1
 You're all just puppets. Tangled in strings.
  • + 1
 It's all gone boblazar.
  • - 1
 You do realise that automation generally means less and less work for people
  • + 9
 Good.
  • + 6
 The Singularity is fully aware of that. Whether or not it will give us 4 day work weeks is the question. Wink
  • + 11
 Actually a false statement. Numerous studies and examples of net job growth by creating jobs that didn't exist in the first place or allowing human capital to focus on other more productive tasks. This is been happening since the industrial revolution. Thousands of jobs didn't even exist 100 years ago exist now because humans can focus on better endeavors. For every job automation "takes" , multiple are created. Do a bit of research
  • + 6
 Only in a truly fucked-up system could everyone having to work less and less be a catastrophic state of affairs Oh wait, that's the system we have right now
  • + 3
 @Lotusoperandi: Mondays suck I never work Mondays. Tuesday is the first day of the week and I don't want to wear myself out early so I only work 4 hours. Wednesday is the middle of the week and everybody knows the week is long so I take Wednesday off as to not get burnt out on a work week. Everybody knows you need to do some work so I will do eight hours on Thursday. Friday the weekend is coming and you definitely want to be prepared for the weekend so I only work till noon on Fridays as to not wear myself out for the weekend. This is a 20 hour work week and I have been doing it for the last eight years and been getting by quite nicely with my skill-set. Fixing robotic industrial equipment AC and DC drives ;-) living a life better than my neighbor who is an MD. Stuck at work every holiday and so on at the ER trying to pay off college loans that he still has in his mid-forties.
  • + 1
 You guys do realise that the idealistic view that employers will pass on the savings in time to the staff is often not the case. It is more often used to cut hours whist maintaining the same hourly rate in order to increase profit or decrease price in order to stay competitive. What employment positions do self service check outs enable. As a carpenter my wage does not go up when i buy an expensive tool in order to maintain my competitive speed of work. There are however rare cases where employers will do the noble thing and reduce the working week whist maintaining salaries. Unfortunately thats not the default and there is no law that compels it.
  • + 2
 @bman33: and thousands of job that did exist 100 yrs ago have vanished leaving the less academically minded to sit on street corners.

Have you got a link to your source info on the automation creating human jobsI’d like a read.

Being serious not taking piss.
  • + 3
 @cypher74: So we should be manually planting and harvesting crops? Should we eliminate trains, planes and autos so horse and buggy makers come back? Should we abolish dishwashers, lawnmowers, clothes washing machines? Each one of those tasks, and endless others free humans and workers up, even non academics for others jobs to do them more productively or even new jobs. From the creation and design of robot /machine engineers and mechanics, manufacture of components for all those new machines and technologies, computers created and will continue to create exponentially more jobs (directly and indirectly) than they ever replaced. Sure some in the direct path of tech/industrial revolutions will feel the pain if they don't adapt. However, to forcefully hamper society's advancement because of certain job losses (while creating others that don't even exist yet) is Luddite's mentality and the mentality of loss. Time and progress don't stop and to foolishly try to stop is just that, a fools errand. Below are some recent links. A quick Google search will provide endless reading if you desire. You will find a few doomsday related articles. However, folks said the same of every major innovation and revolution over human history. I also recommend reading a book called "Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence" to get a more informed picture. Cheers.


www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/09/18/machines-will-create-million-more-jobs-than-they-displace-by-world-economic-forum-says/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d7d63d7fb5ce

www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/five-lessons-from-history-on-ai-automation-and-employment

cacm.acm.org/news/220768-what-the-industrial-revolution-really-tells-s-about-the-future-of-automation-and-work/fulltext


www.skynettoday.com/editorials/ai-automation-job-loss
  • + 2
 @matt5311: buy the damn shares!

If you really want to share in profit and wealth creation, buy the shares! You might even discover there are no free lunches for shareholders.
  • + 0
 @Ktron: thanks for the tip mitt romney.
  • + 2
 @bman33: we will see what “raid Area 51” will uncover!
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: a bunch of criminal trespassing charges
  • + 1
 Terminator bikes!
  • + 0
 Bad for the environment, and it eliminates jobs. Yes!
  • + 1
 Skynet.
  • + 1
 They took er jerbs!!!!
  • - 3
 Lets just kill of all humans and have robots run the earth. Since humans seem to have less of a soul with each passing year.
  • - 2
 Agreed
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