Meet Your Maker: Titanium Frame Fabrication at Ora Engineering

Mar 5, 2024 at 8:01
by Dario DiGiulio  



Meet Your Maker is going to be a new series for the site, highlighting the people, places, and things that bring you the bikes and components you love. Today I'm kicking things off in the land where many bikes start their journey: Taiwan. A few of us from the team are here on a fact-finding mission, seeing all the hot new things at the Taipei Bike Show.

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Thanks to some extra time on the front side of the trip, we were able to visit a few factories along the way, including today's highlight. Ora Engineering is a frame manufacturer located in Taichung, specializing primarily in titanium fabrication, but working in steel and aluminum as well. They build bikes for a wide variety of customers, from small one-off projects to major manufacturers anybody would recognize.

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We'll start with the tubes.

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These rods are destined to become components, like stems and crank spindles.
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Thick tubes are typically the starting product for the butting process, where the material gets drawn into much thinner sections.

On a basic level, Ora takes raw tubing and metal billet and turns those ingredients into bike frames, components, and tooling. They do all of this in-house, with a large team of experienced workers and relatively little automation. There was one charismatic little robot and a bevy of CNC machines, but otherwise things are fairly similar to what you'd see at a much smaller outfit.

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Butted tubes being squeezed into shape.

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Friendly and uncaring robot arm hard at work.
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A visual on how tubes elongate as they're butted - these started off identical.

They do all their butting, forming, and mitering in house, in contrast to most other outfits that choose to outsource those processes for efficiency.

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Bending and forming molds, mostly made in house.

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A variety of the possible tube shapes.
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Working his way through a pile of stay tubing.

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Tubes are mitered by *wire EDM, a process I personally hadn't seen before. Often tubes are cut with a hole saw, laser, or ground into shape.

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Good fixturing keeps things in place.
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This little wire does a lot of work.

Once mitered (and formed, if need be), tubes get mounted into the jig for that given bike, aligning the cut tubes in their final form. One welder on line tacks things in place, then hands that frame off to another station to get fully welded up.

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One of the five or so finish welders working at a given time.

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Many, many, many jigs in storage here.
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Some frames, half built.

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Frames undergo an alignment check after welding, to make sure nothing got too distorted by heat.

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For checkin'.
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Mr. Brown approves.

After alignment is checked, things go through final detail processes, where surfaces are ground, bearing references are faced, and accessory holes are drilled.

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This BB is about to get faced, so the bearings run true and free.

Taipei Cycle Show 2024
Magic wand.
Taipei Cycle Show 2024
Finished and ready for a few more steps.

There are many procedures a frame undergoes to be truly complete, such as heat treatment, chemical baths, and pre-paint texturing. All of those are done in Ora's factory, in a few disparate corners around the place.

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Ready for the final steps.

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It'll buff.
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The lubricant/chemical/rinse zone, mostly serving the CNC machines.

Some of the frames get sent off for powder coating, others are kept raw, and some titanium models get the anodization option from factory.

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The graphics department, getting stuck into some work.

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Truly bare bones anodizing setup.
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The product of said setup.

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Slapped, wrapped, and ready to be packed.

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Things aren't just frame focused at Ora though, with some pretty complex components moving through their factory as well.

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Many bits and bobs come out of the machines, including this unusual pasta.

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Shiny teeth.
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A full warehouse, humming along.

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Forbidden milk.

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Thumbs up for safety.

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A house brand stem in the wild.
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Some laser graphics practice.

The frames and components made at Ora are also tested in their facility, to make sure they handle fatigue, impact, and other use-related damages without failure. There are a variety of machines at play here, as well as some attractive graveyards of parts and frame pieces.

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Cranks and whatnot from the test lab.

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A frame undergoing a fatigue test.
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Welded fork cutaway to check for porosity and weld depth.

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Pretty sure I had this poster on my wall as a kid.

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One of the more impressive machines was their water treatment facility, which removes any byproducts of the fabrication process.

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Filtering media sucks out the bad stuff.
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The bad stuff.

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Scenes from the neighborhood.
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While Ora might not sell bikes directly to customers on the open market, odds are good that you've seen their bikes and components out in the wild.





Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
194 articles

100 Comments
  • 89 7
 All the companies you just showed are stoked you just blew up their spot lol
  • 4 0
 Scrolled down here for this.
  • 40 0
 It's not like Chromag etc hide the fact that most of their frames come from this area of the world. If anything it looks like a good advert! My Chromag was made in Squamish but I doubt the welder has access to all the tech that this company has. Even Chromag state that the frames welded abroad are just as good as the local ones.
  • 10 4
 Be willing to be those companies were given a heads up prior to publishing (Chromag, Cane Creek, Odyssey, etc)
  • 53 0
 @bman33: We were not! (And for the record we would have appreciated a heads-up) But we have nothing to hide, Ora make fantastic stuff, and the publicity we're getting from that scooter has been invaluable Smile
  • 8 0
 If you have a nice steel or titanium frame, it's pretty likely that Ora made it. This isn't exactly a "secret."
  • 5 0
 @wake-n-rake: probably better.
  • 3 1
 @wjwestwood: wait, that scooter isn't a Chromag super secret protype? Bummer lol
  • 1 1
 @bman33: I’ve only known of Ora for ten years now !?
  • 27 2
 These things shouldn't be secrets, what is there to hide? Maybe something, maybe nothing.

Personally, if a company/business/person/whatever, goes out of their way to try to hide this behind a veil of secrecy or denial, it is quite off-putting.

There are ways to look into it, though.

www.importyeti.com/company/chromag-bikes
www.importyeti.com/company/riser-distribution-chromag-bikes
www.importyeti.com/company/cane-creek-cycling
www.importyeti.com/company/fox-factory
www.importyeti.com/company/yeti-cycles
  • 6 1
 The spot was already blown. If you want to find out where in the world anything is manufactured, just search on Import Yeti. Any company that actually tries to hide that kind of info is sus.
  • 9 1
 @wjwestwood: the models made in Canada are listed on Chromage website? I bought a Devinci Spartan alloy because it was "made in Canada", i also bought a Banshee Rune v2 frame, to discover it was actually 'made in Taiwan'. Customer information is key, and i think there should be a Law on this topic to clarify where our frames are made.
  • 3 0
 @zoobab2: regarding laws, there are. But they are going to vary country by country, obviously.

It also gets muddy when components from one country of origin are assembled into greater parts, which are then moved again, assembled into even great parts etc etc.

Frames should be pretty easy though, they aren't very complicated. Banshee's factory for example, has even been shown on PB here. But again, there is nothing wrong with where its made - some of these places export very high quality product.

www.pinkbike.com/news/closer-look-banshee-scythe-2010.html
  • 7 0
 They're the best in the business. You'd be better off blasting it out that they did your frame or component for you because then your customers would know it was done right.
  • 1 0
 @wake-n-rake: probably better
  • 2 0
 @zoobab2: Different countries have different regulations regarding the "made in" label. I think its something that's purposely left ambiguous. For something to be labeled Made in USA...according to the FTC...a product needs to have "all or virtually all" parts sourced in the US. Looking around...its seems to be 50% American sourced parts. The other 50% can be from anywhere else. Then you break that down...those US sourced parts can also contain materials from foreign countries also. In the end...I think it really means nothing but some pride.
  • 3 0
 @bman33: Can you imagine the comment section’s horror if Chromag released a (gas-powered) e-bike?
  • 4 0
 @Lotusoperandi: if my options were to a) have a frame that was welded by a guy overseas who welds 1000 frames a year, or b) have a frame welded by someone in the states who welds a couple a year, I would 10/10 choose the overseas frame. Especially if it’s from a place like this.
  • 2 0
 @wake-n-rake:
Ive heard a podcast with the owner of sour Bikes (Germany). In Corona they moves the frame-production of one Bike frame tò Germany ans they had a hard time finding wielders, who can wield as food as the taiwanese. Not in terms of durability, but in particular optic-wise. So i Guess its Safe to that a taiwanese frame Is high quality and these people are experts in their job.
  • 4 4
 @Canadmos: I'm a bit weary of Chromag these days. I wouldn't say they are being overly secretive or denying anything but are certainly very intentional with their marketing and what they choose to say. The new RIZA stem is "CNC machined in Canada". I take that to mean made in Canada. But when the stem arrives the box has a made in Taiwan stamp on it. So I emailed them to clarify out of curiosity (on top of another problem but besides the point). Surprise, never heard back. Point is they could import molds from Taiwan and finish them off in CA. Which is fine. But say that.
  • 1 0
 @wake-n-rake: of course they say that lol they are trying to sell them.
  • 12 0
 @MidwestMountains: We dont have any intention of being secretive! You can read about how our frames are made in Taiwan, or in Canada on the bikes page of our website! I can confirm that RIZA is 100% made here in Canada...in Whistler, in the same building we operate out of. The only reason I could imagine a made in taiwan label is that we recycled some packaging that was originally made for our HiFi stems which are made in Taiwan. As for your email, I'm sorry to hear this, we try to answer everyone and not sure how this slipped through the cracks. Please email any time with questions, we love to hear from you!
  • 2 0
 @MidwestMountains:

Riza stems are definitely made in Whistler.
  • 2 0
 @Chromagbikes: welp, that's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Thanks for that. Nothing against Taiwan but when you pay extra for made in Canada and first thing you see is made in Taiwan, it raises questions. Thanks again.
  • 33 2
 Hardworking Asians making us look good
  • 14 21
flag jesse-effing-edwards (Mar 5, 2024 at 9:22) (Below Threshold)
 Canadians can't build stuff anymore. Some can sure design cool stuff, though!
  • 28 3
 @jesse-effing-edwards: WeAreOne might disagree with that...
  • 3 0
 @ratedgg13: not to mention welders like Chris Dekerf, Mike Truelove, Paul Brodie, Brad Howlett, Naked Cycles, Daambuilt Bikes, Rolling Dales Cycles, and many more.
  • 1 0
 @robbiekane: Too bad Rocky, Norco, Chromag etc. etc. rely on Taiwan to build the bikes that most people actually ride. Obviously we have some craftsfolks, but we are definitely not manufacturing powerhouse.
  • 24 0
 "Hot Wire" is what you use to cut styrofoam.. This is Wire EDM, the material is removed through electrical discharges between the wire and tube.
  • 3 0
 came here to say the same thing, but you handled it..
  • 2 0
 I thought this was a bad joke at first with EDM being electronic dance music. Removed through electronic discharge... I could figure the joke out.
  • 1 0
 yep, thought this was obvious
  • 1 0
 But can you use it to cut cheese?
  • 2 0
 And I’d imagine the ‘water treatment facility’ is the filtration system for those EDMs. The ‘bad stuff’ is the particles of disintegrated Ti captured by the filters.
  • 1 0
 @Bullandbladder: At least one tank is anyway. There would also need to be a DI water source for the EDM as well, as they require it to operate. We have separate water systems for EDMs and for neutralization of other contaminated sources.
  • 18 0
 Great article, but I don't think there is such a thing as "solid tubes". I'd call these "bars". Again, doesn't take anyway from this great article!
  • 6 21
flag RadBartTaylor (Mar 5, 2024 at 10:23) (Below Threshold)
 They are hollow bars.....technical term, I wouldn't expect you to understand.
  • 13 1
 @RadBartTaylor: Vinay is correct, 'solid tubes' are just called bars. However, he was not referring to the class of tubes known as hollow bars. Instead, he was talking about solid, cylindrical stock, known as 'bars'... technical term, I wouldn't expect you to understand.
  • 2 19
flag RadBartTaylor (Mar 5, 2024 at 12:51) (Below Threshold)
 @rideordie35: it was a joke genius that you obviously didn't understand....but there you go, my attempt at humor, I tried.
  • 9 0
 @RadBartTaylor: tried,and failed
  • 7 6
 @lenniDK: well 3 people liked it....I'll take it
  • 2 1
 @RadBartTaylor: gotta appreciate the small things in this crazy world
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: as usual probably it was liked by Duke Best and Rod and Rex Reynolds
  • 17 1
 This is one of the coolest articles I've read on pb and I'm looking forward to the rest in the series. It's great that the first was in Taiwan. Boo (and stronger words) to the entire stupid conceit of "for (north am and euro) riders by (north am and euro) riders" and the smoke and mirrors that import-branding-distribution companies have used to appear to live up to that. I 100% don't want the head of human resources at the bike company to be one of the bros from the group ride. The people in the C suite? The website team? Who cares. If you're a domestic manufacturer good for you, that's something for the consumers in that same particular region can celebrate; I still give no fs if you ride on the weekend or choose to do something else with your time off.
  • 16 1
 Clicked on this because I'm a Ti bike nerd but as a water treatment engineer I want to know more about that system. What kind of impurities are they trying to remove, what's in the pressure filters? How much water do they use?
  • 10 0
 the bad ones, pressure-actuated filtering apparatuses, 6
  • 3 0
 Hey, I too am a Ti nerd and work in water/wastewater treatment! It looks like they have a weir box behind those filters which will separate out the heavier solids, then the rest of the process water gets filtered through that media. I wouldn't be surprised if they have a pH neutralization process in there as well since they're etching the frames.
  • 17 1
 Some people call “solid tubes” bars. Which makes me wonder why those things we clamp in our stems and hold on to aren’t called handletubes…
  • 13 0
 Good content Dario, PB needs more of this
  • 12 0
 Me thinks solid tubes may not be tubes at all, but rather bars or rods.
  • 9 0
 reminded me of the show "How its Made" .....back when History Channel used to be cool and was still thing (is it still a thing?)
  • 7 0
 now youve got the theme song stuck back in my head
  • 3 0
 @mior: and that dudes voice.....best show on TV for years.
  • 2 0
 @RadBartTaylor: I remember it as a female voice. Maybe there were two different voice-overs, or two eras of the show?
  • 1 0
 @mammal: yeah - there was a gal too, I think later one, but the guys voice was super unique....or at least I can remember it very distinctly
  • 4 0
 @RadBartTaylor: that was Mark Tewksbury who did the voice overs in the early episodes
  • 9 0
 Cool, I have a Chromag Wideangle frame that I'm assuming they made. Probably the highest quality frame, aside from a custom hand built frame, that I've owned or worked on.
  • 8 0
 Got an Ora built Starling Murmur. Top quality welding and detailing. Great to see the factory.
  • 2 0
 I was hoping to see some of the rear triangles in the pics above. got an Ora built rear triangle on my twist
  • 2 0
 Likewise (mine is of the stainless variety). I appreciate that Starling is very open about where their frames are made. Lots of brands say “made in Taiwan”, but I haven’t seen many that say as clearly as Starling does that they are made by Ora. I suspect my first generation Cotic RocketMAX was also made by them. I would happily buy from them again.
  • 1 0
 @grahamvdr: Hmm, i have owned a RocketMax and the tolerances (geo, alignment of the swingarm etc.) were just as off as on my first gen Starling Swoop (when Joe was basically practicing). On the other hand i own a commencal meta ht and a Pipedream moxie which are also by ora. Theses frames are perfectly straight and built better than anything i ve seen, wierd.
  • 6 0
 Where can I get a chromag moped
  • 2 0
 It's nice to know the factory is full of actual humans instead of soulless robots. I've seen enough Disney movies to know if there is a single robot that it definitely has a soul and repressed feelings.
  • 4 0
 Ti hardtails being built and not a handlebar mustache, pair of Blundies, or border collie in sight...
  • 1 0
 If you want to watch the whole thing in action: Falkenjagd Bikes has just published a 3 part video series showcasing "their" titanium frame manufacturing in Taiwan (at Ora no less, if I'm not mistaken). You can find it on the "world of mtb" Youtube channel (if you don't mind a mix of German+English or subtitles).
  • 3 0
 Cool article, REALLY surprised that Pinkbike posted photos of the consumer branded products!
  • 3 0
 I appreciate getting a peek at the likely birthplace of my Rootdown. Looking forward to more like this!
  • 1 0
 Love this piece-and looking forward to more articles about where our stuff actually comes from. The label on a downtube (or product box) does tell part of the story, but who makes a bike part matters more.
  • 1 1
 I am a hobby welder, that might attempt a bike frame in the next 5 years or so....I only wish I could TIG Ti half this good! I will probably use SS as that is what I have the most experience in and can lay a pretty bead with. AL still eludes me for that IG worthy bead.....
  • 1 0
 Lol, you really do have a wild imagination don’t you Nicky.
  • 1 1
 I try not to buy anything Chinese or from Taiwan. And even less a titanium frame. I don't buy anything Canadian either. I won't say it's garbage but a certain type of material is bought for reasons other than that it is cheap.
  • 1 0
 "test rig" - Lol

So the stainless steel ball bearings that that the company I used to work for anodised on a weekly basis were in fact aluminium or titanium !! (or even chocolate perhaps)

Duuuh
  • 2 0
 I think they built the ti Motobecane cross bike I bought. Super nice welds.
  • 3 0
 Mmm, stacks of solid titanium tubes.
  • 2 1
 When I saw the 'unusual pasta' I immediately thought 'the forbidden pasta'. Then I scroll down and boom, 'forbidden milk'. Lel
  • 4 2
 Super sick tour. Nothing by alloy and steel goodness!
  • 2 0
 were those gt downhill frames in that rack ?
  • 6 0
 Commencal dh v5
  • 1 0
 @sevenup: just spotted that after realising that GT frame is only carbon
  • 1 0
 I've met him ..he makes the tall tale..better than your motor scooters that lemmings like to putt putt around on..
  • 2 0
 Great article and pics!
  • 1 0
 Yes but are they metil or normil?
  • 1 0
 Ahh,I love the smell of metal in the morning
  • 4 4
 Asia where R&D means Reproduce and Duplicate
Also, that is one of the cleaner factories I've seen.
  • 2 1
 I remember MANY broken Salsa ti frames..
  • 6 0
 Those were the Lynskey made ones
  • 1 0
 I never knew they had OSHA in Asia!
  • 1 0
 Super impressive.
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